Politicians' responses to the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy have most prominently resulted in a push for gun control legislation, but the shootings have also given impetus to a new conversation on mental health policies.

"Now is the time to bolster access to mental health care and improve public safety for all Americans. I urge Vice President Biden to include the Excellence in Mental Health Act in the task force recommendations," said Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento.

President Barack Obama commissioned Biden to lead a task force on gun policy after the Sandy Hook shootings took place nearly one month ago in Newtown, Conn.

Biden's group is expected to develop proposals that will please gun control advocates and anger gun rights groups, despite his contentious meeting with the National Rifle Association on Thursday.

Any proposals Biden makes on mental health policy would be added to those coming from other lawmakers, including some California politicians.

Matsui and Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Santa Fe Springs, are among the lawmakers who say they will reintroduce bills intended to increase funding for mental health care.

Also, Darrell Steinberg, the state Senate's top Democrat, has called for the nation to adopt California's mental health prevention and treatment system.

Aside from new proposals, mental health care advocates say they anticipate the Affordable Care Act may increase access to treatment, with an important caveat.

Even if the controversial law succeeds in expanding access to health insurance coverage, there's no guarantee people who could benefit from mental health care will seek it out.

"You have got to de-stigmatize mental health services," Napolitano said. "They're afraid. They're scared of being called `crazy."'

The state senator's proposal is based on Proposition 63, which California voters approved in 2004. Steinberg wrote the measure, which levies a 1 percent tax on incomes greater than $1 million to fund housing, medication, therapy and other mental health programs.

Steinberg said he is not proposing Congress necessarily enact a similar tax increase on a national scale. He does, however, want the federal government to provide matching funds to states' mental health programs.

State provided programs, Steinberg said, would include prevention, education on the signs of mental illness and suicide prevention.

Steinberg's enthusiasm for Prop. 63 is not universal. He agreed to an audit of the program last year after an Associated Press investigation found tens of millions of dollars have been spent on general wellness programs for people who have not been diagnosed with mental illness.

He said the audit is still pending and expressed confidence that Prop. 63 programs have helped Californians receive vital treatment.

"We are helping tens of thousands of people effectively. More effectively than before," he said.

Steinberg authored a letter to Biden in which he wrote that if Congress were to appropriate a dollar-for-dollar match for states' mental health programs, the cost would be about $20 billion.

He also maintained that every dollar spent on Prop. 63 programs has saved 88 cents on criminal justice expenses and other health and housing costs.

Matsui's Excellence in Mental Health Bill predates Steinberg's idea, but is similar. Her bill, introduced last June, would allow community clinics to receive Medicaid reimbursements when providing mental health or addiction treatment to low-income patients.

Another funding proposal would come from Napolitano's office. The Santa Fe Springs lawmaker has announced that she will reintroduce her Mental Health in Schools bill, which would provide grant funding for therapists and other caregivers at schools.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare" to both its defenders and detractors, say the law should help more Americans who could benefit from mental health care receive treatment. 

But even if the law succeeds in increasing Americans' access to health insurance, it does not necessarily mean those newly insured who may benefit from mental health care will seek or be referred to treatment.

The prospect of the school shootings opening a new debates on mental health policies poses a quandary for those who want government to provide more access to mental health care.

On one hand, the potential for a mentally disturbed individual to commit yet another act of violence approaching the scale of the Sandy Hook or the 2009 Virginia Tech shootings may serve as a call to improve prevention and treatment programs.

On the other, however, conflating mental illness with violence may deter those who could benefit from treatment from receiving care.

"I think they should be asking, `Who do I know who may be showing even moderate signs of mental illness?' Not that they're going to be violent. Those are the rarest of the rare cases," said Rusty Selix, executive director of Mental Health Association in California.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates roughly one quarter of American adults deal with some form of mental illness.

"Many eases are mild but 14% of the population suffers from moderate or severe mental illness, a near-totality of whom will never take an assault weapon to a public place and repeat ... (the Newtown) travesty, for which we still grieve," Steinberg wrote.

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research estimates that, as of 2014, roughly 500,000 Californians who currently lack health insurance may gain access to health coverage.

The center bases that prediction on the Affordable Care Act's requirement that certain insurance plans include mental health coverage as essential benefits. Those plans include Medi-Cal coverage and any provided via state-run health insurance exchanges.

But echoing the concerns of Selix and Napolitano, California Health Interview Survey director David Grant said access to care does not mean people will seek treatment.

"It's not a panacea," said Grant, who directs health surveys for UCLA. "Even when people do have health insurance and they do have problems, they don't get treatment."

The Associated Press contributed to this report