Peninsula Behavioral Health director to retire after decade of growth

Peter Casey, 66, will retire at month’s end.

Peter Casey

Peter Casey

PORT ANGELES — Peter Casey is ending his 10-year career as executive director of Peninsula Behavioral Health with a raft of accomplishments that include myriad new programs and a doubling of the agency’s budget.

Casey, 66, is retiring at the end of the month, his last day being Aug. 31.

A celebration of his career is planned from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Red Lion Hotel, 221 N. Lincoln St.

“Casey has made a tremendous contribution to PBH over the last 10 years,” said Dr. Roger Oakes, retired physician president of the board.

“He’s expanded services tremendously in terms of services for the disabled, veterans, people needing residential care,” Oakes said. “He is a consummate professional and is going to be missed.”

Wendy Sisk, the agency’s clinical director, will take over for Casey as CEO; the agency will change its titles.

When Casey started in 2006, the agency served less than 2,000 clients and now serves more than 3,000, said Rebekah Miller, development coordinator.

Said Sandy Long, former board member: “He took the mental health center from a really small unit to a large effective mental health center.

“He’s been a gift to this community.”

The staff, which was slashed to about 60 because of financial reasons shortly after Casey came on board, is now more than 110, according to Miller, and the budget has doubled from $4 million to $8 million “in large part because of the programs Peter has brought in.” Casey’s signature program was the Clallam County Respite Center, according to Oakes, Long and Deb Reed, who was board president when Casey was hired.

The six-bed crisis stabilization center for mental health patients who are in need of immediate local care began providing services in January 2015 at 112 E. Eighth St., in Port Angeles.

The respite center for acute psychiatric patients provides intensive care on a voluntary basis to residents in an unlocked neighborhood setting.

“It kept a lot of patients who needed help in the community instead of sending them off to some other facility,” Oakes said. “It provided a type of service that wasn’t available here,” and helps provide care in the face of mental health hospitalization challenges in the state.

The agency’s board and staff had discussed creating a crisis stabilization unit since the 1990s, Reed said.

“Peter built great partnerships,” Reed said. The respite center “was his greatest accomplishment.”

The agency’s programs have grown from seven to more than 20 during Casey’s tenure.

“Some of the needs in the community weren’t being met because we didn’t have the capacity,” Miller said. “He has grown the capacity so that those people are now being served.”

Among the newest additions is the Project for Assistance in Transitioning from Homelessness, which initially was operated by Western Outreach Services in Forks.

“We took over the program a year ago. We have a social worker in the community five days a week, going to the homeless and engaging them and helping them find housing, social services and treatment if needed,” Casey said.

Casey said he was brought in to expand services and diversify funding.

“The state doesn’t provide sufficient funding for services the community needs. It was important to find other funding sources to enable people in this community who were not mentally ill to receive services.”

Casey said the agency changed its mission to be more inclusive in 2008.

“Before then we were only serving the mentally ill population. Now, we’re serving anyone who has a mental health need — people who may have anxiety or depression disorders, or adjustment disorders or performance or relationship issues.”

He said he’s written as many as 50 grants during his tenure.

“I think I have accomplished quite a lot but you also have to be lucky,” he added, referring to the measure initiated by Sen. Jim Hargrove that provides one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax for mental health services.

One service funded was a child psychiatric provider.

“When I came here, people went out of town to see a child psychiatrist and went to the pediatric clinic for medication,” he said.

Another was a team for juveniles in the court system.

Along with Western Outreach Services in Forks and Clallam County Juvenile and Family Services, Peninsula Behavioral Health is “able to provide a range of services for kids who had crossed into criminal justice system and get on a right path.”

The agency also has expanded outpatient services and mental health services for those suffering medical problems.

“We have an increased involvement with the medical community. We have a strong collaboration with Olympic Medical Center.”

As part of a network of 16 other mental health organizations in the state, the agency provides care management for people with chronic health conditions in Clallam and Jefferson counties, he said.

Other important programs include treatment of co-occurring mental illness and chemical dependency problems and the syringe-exchange program, Casey said.

After he retires, he and his wife, Jill Paulk, plan to tour Iceland, Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales before returning to the North Olympic Peninsula.

Paulk has worked in the mental health field for more than 40 years, 10 years at Jefferson Mental Health Services in Port Townsend.

Casey thanked his staff and the community for much of the growth of Peninsula Behavioral Health.

“I think that this is an incredible community,” Casey said. “Anything I’ve accomplished could not have been done without the community support.

“It’s a very special community. There’s a lot of tolerance and acceptance.”


Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at

Wendy Sisk

Wendy Sisk

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