Joe Roszak, 63, joined Kitsap Mental Health Services when the great recession just started in 2008.
He remembered how difficult the time was — coming in as a new chief executive officer and having to close programs, lay off staff and shut down office operations. It wasn’t a situation he would wish on anyone, he said.
But the team of KMHS, during Roszak’s tenure, managed to keep the agency’s mission afloat and have survived quite some other challenges since then, including the global pandemic, Roszak said.
Now, after 14 years, Roszak announced his retirement from the agency, which has become financially stable and well-positioned for a transition to a new CEO, Roszak said.
“We’re quite solid right now,” Roszak said. “I think it’s a good time for me to step back and let someone else take the reins,” Roszak told the KMHS board of directors.
Roszak’s retirement will be effective on July 5.
Looking back, Roszak said that every time the agency has been successful or made a major accomplishment, it was a reflection of the KMHS team working collaboratively with lots of other people.
Pendleton Place, Kitsap County’s first permanent supportive housing in Bremerton, is a good example, Roszak said.
The 72-unit apartment complex in Bremerton is what KMHS has worked with community partners for years to build. Opening in March, the apartment will soon be leased to 72 people who are homeless and struggling with mental health, substance use disorders or other disabling conditions.
‘A blessing to this community:’ Newly completed Pendleton Place readies for tenants
In 2013, the agency worked with a countywide coalition to let the county pass the one-tenth of 1% sales tax. The tax provides an additional over $4 million dollars annually to support behavioral health care and led to the creation of the Crisis Triage Center and the Pacific Hope and Recovery Center, KMHS said in a statement announcing Roszak’s retirement.
The two centers opened at the corner of Fuson Road and Almira Drive in east Bremerton in 2018.
Some other accomplishments include a nationally competitive grant that KMHS was awarded to develop a model that integrated several services to provide whole-person care. Roszak also expanded the agency’s services with new satellite offices in north and south Kitsap, according to KMHS.
“Everyone points to the CEO, and I’d just say it’s really ‘Team KMHS,’ ” Roszak said.
Starting working in the mental health field as a 19-year-old inpatient psychiatric aide, Roszak said he has dedicated his career to helping the most vulnerable and voiceless people.
Throughout his career, Roszak has worked as a CEO for three agencies across three states for 35 years and is grateful for working with KMHS, he said.
“I got a heart filled with gratitude, with the people that I worked with throughout the years to help so many other lives,” Roszak said. “I’m just extremely grateful and thankful to be part of this agency,”
More time with family
Roszak has been thinking about retirement and spending more time with his family for several years, he said.
“Jobs like this, as you may know, are 24/7,” Roszak said.
After his retirement, Roszak plans to do some travels with his wife, Amy, explore several hobbies, such as wood sculpting, and check off some items that have long been on his to-do list at home after his retirement, he said.
Roszak will stay in the county and remain accessible and supportive to the agency until his successor is formally in place, he said.
The board of KMHS will be conducting a nationwide search to find a new CEO. The board has hired Valtas, a Washington-based firm that specializes in recruiting for nonprofit leadership, to assist with the process, according to KMHS.
“Through Joe’s leadership over the past 14 years, KMHS is in its strongest position ever with healthy operations, extensive specialized services, exceptional staff, very capable leadership and financial stability,” KMHS board President Patty Lent said.
The new leader will have a solid foundation to continue building the agency’s future, Lent said.