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Patrick Kennedy Joins Coloradans In Push For Mental Health Insurance Reforms

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Dafna Jenet (credit: CBS)

Dafna Jenet (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – Dafna Jenet’s young son struggles with a learning disability that causes severe depression and anxiety.

“He struggles making and keeping friends. He struggles keeping it together in the classroom,” Jenet told CBS4.

At his lowest, he tried to commit suicide. His best chance at recovery was at Children’s Hospital, but the treatment wasn’t covered by their insurance.

Her son is now getting the help he needs, but at a cost.

“I’m guessing I’ll pay off my student loans before I pay off my son’s health care,” Jenet said.

While the gun control debate is a hot topic nationally right now, many like Jenet are choosing now as their time to call for expanded mental health care coverage in the United States. It’s often still hard to get, because many insurance plans, like Jenet’s, won’t cover some treatments.

“As long as I’m willing to continue to take on debt, I have the possibility that he will be a regular, normal contributing member of society when he grows up,” Jenet said.

At an event pushing for mental health insurance reforms in Denver Thursday night the keynote speaker was former Congressman Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who has suffered with addiction and bipolar disorder.

Kennedy says federal health care reform requires insurance companies to cover mental illnesses, but there has been a problem implementing it at the state level.

Patrick Kennedy speaks in Denver on Jan. 10, 2012. (credit: CBS)

Patrick Kennedy speaks in Denver on Jan. 10, 2012. (credit: CBS)

“If you want to keep people from getting cancer you do screenings. But we want to keep people from being addicted. We want to keep people from having psychosis, so why don’t we have prevention?” Kennedy said.

Many people at Thursday night’s event were wearing badges that say “Patriots for Parody,” meaning they want insurance companies to treat mental health issues the same as physical issues, because they are equally important.

“The brain is part of the body. I’m sorry to, like, alert people but it is and we cannot discriminate against it,” Kennedy said.

One thing local mental health advocates are excited about is that Gov. John Hickenlooper asking the Legislature to approve $18.5 million for mental health treatment.

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