Dr. Karen Tepper

Chandler resident Dr. Karen Tepper is the new CEO of Terros Health and sees more people are in need of some kind of mental health help. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

Mental health is one of the top issues facing the country right now. It comes up in mass shootings, teen suicides and in the rising number of unsheltered people.

One Chandler resident is able to find some good in all that bad news.

“The only silver lining, actually I see in the last year, is that some of the stigma around getting help has diminished,” said Dr. Karen Tepper from their Mesa office. “And I think that helps all of us, right?”

Tepper was named the CEO of Terros Health last month and had been the healthcare company’s chief operating officer before that.

She said sport celebrities and the news media have helped get people talking about mental health and are motivating more young people to reach out for help.

“I think we’re as a nation, or as a world, we’ve all been through trauma over the last couple of years,” Tepper said. “And so we’re seeing more and more people coming through our doors, who are needing trauma therapy.”

Terros Health began primarily focusing on mental and behavioral health care and has since expanded to become more well-rounded.

“We talked about, sort of, integrated care, which for us has meant the integration of behavioral health and primary care services,” Tepper said. “And moving forward, we’re really going to be talking about how do we deepen that? So how do we include things like prevention, which as I said, is sort of my background and where I came from.”

Tepper never set out for a career in public health. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona in human development. She spent 10 years there focusing on behaviors, especially in children and young people.

She became CEO at Acumen Fiscal Agent. She ended up leaving when that company was acquired by another company.

Tepper said the experience of becoming CEO for Terros was much different than the first time.

“The last go around was was a bit more spur the moment, quite frankly,” she said. “It was a privately held company, so it’s a family board. And they were able to make decisions very, very rapidly.”

This time, Terros Health’s board knew the previous CEO, Peggy Chase, intended to retire years ago. Tepper said it was important for her that the board take plenty of time to vet her and make sure they thought she was best for the job. So she went through a number of interviews and personality tests.

As COO, she was instrumental in landing some major grants. One funds a program with the county that puts a minute clinic inside the Black Canyon probation office. It helps bring health care to people who are on probation. She said in some cases many of their clients haven’t seen a doctor since they were children.

The other program is the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic, which works primarily with children, veterans and other special populations. 

But Terros Health never strays too far from its roots. Tepper said they do mental health screenings with all of their traditional health programs.

She said they also are trying to help more with children.

“We are in 53 schools right now,” Tepper said. “We have more schools that want to bring telehealth in. For us, it’s really about how do we bring on enough staff and get them trained and ready to go to help the people that are in need? 

“There needs to be more money, obviously, that goes toward addressing these issues. But people are talking about it, which means the stigma is going to continue to go down. I hope, I truly, truly hope, that the people that really need help are going to be willing to come and ask for it.”

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