Atlanta founder aims to help older adults get mental health care

How a local center educates health providers and caregivers

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The Center for Mental Health and Aging is a relatively new company, but its creator’s roots in mental health care run deep.

Regina Koepp, CMHA’s founder and director, is using her experience as a board-certified clinical psychologist and as a longtime member of the health care community to benefit seniors through educating health providers and caregivers.

Ultimately, the aim is to help seniors with necessary services.

Regina Koepp is the founder and director of the Atlanta-based Center for Mental Health and Aging.

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed

“Our goal is really to destigmatize mental health and ensure that older adults get the mental health care that they need,” Koepp said.

A three-pronged approach

CMHA, she explained to the AJC, serves this population in three distinct ways.

First, it helps health care providers working in the aging space.

“We provide continuing education that meets requirements for licensure and also provides focused training on mental health for older adults and the unique needs that older adults have, so that’s how we make our money,” she said.

Second is its national provider directory, which is free to use and free to be a part of.

“We’re putting together a national provider directory of mental health providers who do specialize with older adults, and that’s because they’re so hard to find, and so, one of the challenges is access to mental health care,” Koepp explained. “And so the provider directory is working on the access issue — helping people find mental health providers.”

And finally, CMHA provides education and resources for seniors, caregivers and family members — and these resources are free, Koepp said.

“It’s like a resource hub for older adults and caregivers.”

Her drive to help providers and the public began while she was working in established medical facilities — she received her training at Stanford; did her postdoctoral work at Emory University, where she also served as an assistant professor; and she worked at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs health care system for 10 years. She remembers highly skilled providers asking her for help in managing the mental health of their patients or their own family members.

“You can have the highest degree in the world but not know what to do or what’s typical or not typical when it comes to aging or mental health,” she said. “So, then, I was like, ‘OK, something has to happen.’”

During her time at the VA, she created a training program for mental health providers on meeting needs of older adults, and when she left, she knew she wanted to create something similar on a national scale. She launched the Center for Mental Health and Aging in 2021, and she said she used her own resources — no loans.

Legwork and forward momentum

Growth has brought with it the challenges of lots of legwork. Over time, the company has applied for and obtained the right to provide continuing education with national organizations like the National Academy of Certified Care Managers and the American Psychological Association.

“That’s taken time to get credentialed with all of these national associations,” she said. “But we are, and it’s going really, really well, so we’ve been in operation offering continuing education for more than a year, and we continue to add more continuing education opportunities to different groups.”

Having two customers sets — medical providers and the caregiving public — has also presented hurdles.

“That’s a little bit of, like … ‘Who am I talking to?’ And that’s a bit of a struggle,” she said. “Really, it’s all people who care for older adults. We just care in different capacities. Really, fine-tuning a message is a bit challenging because they are two different audiences. One of the challenges I’m facing is finding a way to hone a message that appeals to both groups.”

Looking forward

Although she’s still fine-tuning some aspects of the business, Koepp feels her initiatives are paying off.

“We’ve been able to educate hundreds of clinicians who didn’t have this information before and can take it back into their communities and dispel myths and provide resources,” she said.

Moving forward she’s building out her offerings. Right now, she’s working on programming on sexual health and aging that can allow mental health providers to spend more time with older adults. And it can provide education on a subject patients might be hesitant to bring up.

She’s focused on expansion as the company matures, which means more relationships with professional groups and continued basic education for families and caregivers. The scalability of the operation and the on-demand nature of the courses, she pointed out, are two positives that contribute to her goals.

“I think what’s next is just really broadening the reach,” she said. “So, even though we’ve been able to train hundreds of clinicians, there are thousands of clinicians — maybe millions of clinicians — who need this information.”

Find out more:

Explore the Center for Mental Health and Aging website:

Listen to Regina Koepp’s podcast, Psychology of Aging.

Read more about Regina Koepp: