DENVER (CBS4)- Colorado is the first state in the country to require insurers to cover annual mental wellness exams just as they do annual physicals.
“We’ve never focused in this way anywhere in United States on mental health wellness like we’re about to do in Colorado,” Rep. Dafna Michaelson said as Gov. Jared Polis signed a law mandating the coverage.READ MORE: State Legislature Makes Historic Investment In Behavioral Health Care: 'We're Going To Save Lives'
Like an annual physical can help detect high blood pressure before it leads to heart attack, Michaelson Jenet says an annual mental health check can help identify signs of depression before it leads to suicide and even reduce physical manifestations of stress and anxiety like heart disease.
“We are constantly hearing ‘somebody has to do something about our mental health crisis.’ Guess what? The governor, today, is about to do something about our mental health crisis.”
Michaelson Jenet first approached the governor about the bill two years ago. She is on a mission to make mental health care as routine and relevant as physical health care. Many people, she says, wait until their in crisis to seek help.
“We know this from physical health care that if you are proactive, taking care of your health, you don’t end up in emergency room, and that is what trying do with our mental health wellness.”
Adams County District Attorney Brian Mason among those who pushed for the bill’s passage.
“I’m really hopeful that this bill will not only impact fewer emergency room visits, I really hope it’s going to mean fewer people stepping into our courthouses,” he said. “There’s a mental health crisis in this country and it disproportionately impacts the criminal justice system.”
The law is aimed at helping Coloradans with depression and anxiety before it leads to drug and alcohol abuse or worse. Rep. Brianna Titone, co-sponsor of the bill, says the savings could be considerable.
“Crises end up costing people time, money and their loved one’s life perhaps.”
Michaelson Jenet hopes the law will lead to Coloradans having primary care therapists just like they do a primary care physician, and by making mental health care routine, will help reduce the stigma around mental illness.
“We have to stop the crisis-level management of our mental health. It’s time for wellness and we’re here.”