One on One: Morris Roth

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morris_rothMorris Roth, who has worked at AspenPointe for nearly 42 years, will retire at the end of July.

As CEO, he has led AspenPointe, one of the region’s largest — and oldest — nonprofits, which serves those with mental health needs, substance-abuse recovery and employment, and career development.

AspenPointe traces its roots to 1875 when it was called the Springs Relief Society, which delivered coal, lumber and clothing to the needy. Today the organization serves more than 30,000 individuals and families each year.

Roth took time this week to talk with the Business Journal about his long career.

How long have you been with AspenPointe, and how did you come to take the job?

I started with AspenPointe part-time in September 1971 and that was for approximately eight hours per week, and then I began full-time Jan. 1, 1972. At that time there were 65 applicants for the job and I was fortunately selected to take the position as an outpatient therapist.

How has your industry changed during the past decade, and what are some things you would like to see changed during the next 10 years?

Significant changes have occurred to include new medications and new treatment regimens for people, and I believe we’ve made a lot of headway in de-stigmatizing people who have mental illness and/or who are seeking behavioral health/mental health/substance abuse treatment. We’ve also made considerable headway in understanding that the brain is as an important organ of the body as any other, like the heart, etc.

During the next 10 years I would like to see continued growth in the mental health field and fewer stigmas associated with mental illness. I would also like to see new technologies developed that incorporate such devices as mobile phones, tablets, and other computerized strategies to aid in mental health treatment. Telecare and telemedicine will become more prominent, and we will see much more focus on prevention and early interventions and education within the behavioral health field.

What are some of the contributions that AspenPointe has made to the community that you are most proud of?

Serving the community and being community relevant has been of most importance to me. Developing community partners and engaging in collaborative involvement with other key agencies in the community has been vital during my tenure. We have created jobs for people who are disenfranchised and who have behavioral health or substance use issues and we have developed new treatment strategies within our community mental health center. This gives us the opportunity to treat more people and provide opportunities for community members to be self-sustaining. By providing education opportunities and job skills training, we significantly reduce the amount of dependence on tax dollars and instead have more people contributing to the tax base.

I’m extremely proud of the café that we opened in the Citizens Service Center on Garden of the Gods Road. It serves to train and employ individuals who are often overlooked by other businesses yet make valuable contributions to the community. By eating our food you are investing in the success of our community. One-hundred percent of our proceeds are invested back into our business to help train and employ the disabled, seniors, at-risk youth and veterans.

Just last month, we opened our Innovation Center, where we’ve started a joint venture with Pikes Peak Community College providing training in construction work to veterans in need of new job skills.

Last year, we developed our community garden and just a few months ago built a geodesic dome. So far, the garden has been a great success. In 2012, we generated more than 800 pounds of produce, and more than 80 clients and 25 community members participated in our volunteer and training activities. Clearly, the community plays an important part in this and our neighbors are welcome to be involved in this experience.

We also built a playground area at our Child and Family facility. We utilize the playscape in our treatment, and families in the neighborhood are welcome to use it as well.

Expanding our service delivery locations has been a priority for me and I’m proud to say that over the last two years we have brought on four new locations where we can serve people better in their geographic locations. We’ve also developed wellness opportunities for our clients, our staff and the community.

I’m particularly proud of the Peer Navigator program we’ve developed for our military members who are transitioning to civilian life. We have made this population a very high priority, not just for them, but for our community.

What is the biggest piece of advice you could offer to AspenPointe’s next CEO?

Continue to serve and bring value to the Pikes Peak region. The success of a CEO is dependent on having an excellent board and being surrounded by a great leadership team. Our staff brings value and they are AspenPointe’s greatest asset. It doesn’t matter your stature in an organization — all team players are critical and of importance. And finally, always put our clients first. Without clients, we as an organization will cease to exist.