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KMHS turns dirt on Keller House

Local and state dignitaries break ground on Kitsap Mental Health Services’ (KMHS) Keller House Tuesday, a multifaceted psychiatric treatment facility expected to open at KMHS’s main campus in East Bremerton in late 2009 or early 2010. - Photo courtesy of Joe Spencer
Local and state dignitaries break ground on Kitsap Mental Health Services’ (KMHS) Keller House Tuesday, a multifaceted psychiatric treatment facility expected to open at KMHS’s main campus in East Bremerton in late 2009 or early 2010.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Joe Spencer

Dirt is officially turned on a “state-of-the-science” residential building at the main campus of Kitsap Mental Health Services (KMHS) in East Bremerton.

Dignitaries broke ground on the Keller House Tuesday, a multifaceted psychiatric treatment facility that will house citizens who are mentally ill, homeless or can’t sufficiently care for themselves.

The $3.9 million project is scheduled to be completed in late 2009 or early 2010.

KMHS Executive Director Joe Roszak, who stepped in last year after KMHS founder and former executive director Larry Keller retired, said a construction bid will be awarded by spring of next year, with the pounding of nails following soon after.

“We’re moving forward aggressively,” he said. “Everything is aligned for us.”

A slew of grants, including the Bremerton Community Development Block Grant, Affordable Housing for All Grant and the County Homeless Housing and Assistance Grant, support from state Legislature, and private and individual donations accounted for much of the nearly $4 million price tag.

The city of Bremerton and Kitsap County commissioners contributed to the project as well, with the county donating the needed land.

“This is a grand example of ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” Roszak said. “It takes a tremendous amount of broad-based support, from the halls of the Legislature to the kitchen tables of individual families.”

The Keller House will replace “The Burwell House,” an aging 60-year-old facility on Burwell Street in Bremerton that’s been renovated three times since 1990. The Burwell facility, while functional, is crammed and meets little more than the basic needs of both staff and clients.

“When you see where we’re coming from, it’s unbelievable,” Roszak said.

“We’ve got just basic stuff,” added Harold Moller, Burwell House Program Manager. “We’d like to have some newer things, and that’s what we’re going to have at the Keller House.”

The new two-story facility, on the KMHS main campus, will centralize services and include outpatient programs. It also will be handicap-accessible and have more storage space, an amenity the Burwell House lacks.

“From that standpoint it will certainly be a good place for the clientele to be, and a good place for the staff to be,” Moller said. “This (Burwell House) is a grand old building, and I’m not saying it’s not, but having the services at the new building will be a good thing.”

While the future of the Burwell House remains in limbo, Moller said each of its current residents, some of whom have lived there for more than six years, will receive a room in the new building.

“We’re looking at moving all the human beings,” he said. “We definitely have a dedicated group of people. The clients feel accepted here.”

In terms of occupancy, the 11,500-square-foot Keller House with 16 individual rooms, is actually rather small. But it will cater to KMHS’ “evidence-based” approach toward research and treatment, Roszak said.

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