DENVER (CBS4) – Insurance companies will have to cover annual mental wellness checkups if a state lawmaker has her way. Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet says it could save lives.

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Like an annual physical can help detect high blood pressure before it leads to a heart attack, she believes, a mental health check can help identify signs of depression before it leads to suicide and even reduce physical manifestations of stress and anxiety.

Babette Canacari is among those supporting the bill. When her 12-year-old daughter Brianna died while using a choking game to cope, she couldn’t help but wonder what she could have done to save her.

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“Did I ask her the right (questions)? Was I too hard on her? The hardest thing is losing a child.”

Five years later, Cancari’s husband would take his life.

(credit: Canacari family)

“He’s the one who cut her down. He’s the one who had to try to resuscitate her. I don’t think anyone ever really asked him these questions and sat with him to get help.”

Michaelson Jenet says people like Cancari’s husband should have someone to turn to for help before they’re in crisis. She says everyone should have a primary care provider for their mental health just as they do for their physical health.

Under her bill, insurance companies would be required to cover, with no co-pay, a 60 minute mental wellness exam by a professional once a year.

Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet (credit: CBS)

“How are you feeling? What’s going on in your life? What are you stressed about? Imagine having that conversation every year… so that when you do get into crisis, if you lose job, if you go through a divorce, if a parent or loved one dies, if you lose a treasured pet, you can go into your mental health provider and they know who you are.”

Canacari says it would save lives.

Babette Canacari (credit: CBS)

“We actually wouldn’t be talking right now. I really believe that. I would still have my family. Half of my family is gone.”

She started a foundation called The Bri Project to break the silence around mental health and support grieving families, but she admits it isn’t easy to seek help. It’s taken her nine years.

“I don’t want anyone to go through this.”

Shaun Boyd

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