Friends Hospital gets a new chief executive Kenneth Glass, 44, a native of Philadelphia, has experience both as an administrator and as a clinical psychologist.

Posted: September 04, 2009

Friends Hospital, the historic but embattled psychiatric hospital in Northeast Philadelphia, has hired a new chief executive officer with Philadelphia roots, and experience as both a clinician and administrator.

Kenneth Glass, 44, comes to Friends from the North Philadelphia Health System, where he was senior vice president of behavioral medicine. The system consists of two small facilities, Girard Medical Center and St. Joseph's Hospital, in North Philadelphia.

Friends is regrouping after allegations from city, county, and state officials that it at times provided insufficient oversight of patients, including in April, when a patient committed suicide. As a result, the city stopped referring Medicaid patients to Friends for emergency care on July 1.

Hospital officials denied a lack of oversight and contended they were being unfairly targeted by regulators. Asked whether the regulatory scrutiny was justified, Glass did not address the question directly.

"Friends needs to go in a different direction," he said, though he declined to criticize the previous leadership. "It needs to be more a part of the Philadelphia behavioral-health community."

The former chief executive, Arris Veronie, left in June. During the summer, the job was temporarily held by Francis M. Sauvageau, a division president from Psychiatric Solutions Inc., the Tennessee company that owns 80 percent of the facility.

Sauvageau, who conducted the search for a permanent chief executive, said he picked Glass for his combination of clinical and administrative experience and for his local ties.

"I liked the fact that he was a known entity, as opposed to someone from Detroit or California," Sauvageau said. "I liked the fact that he was a native son."

Glass, whose hiring took effect Aug. 27, was described as an excellent choice by Arthur C. Evans, director of the city Department of Behavioral Health and Mental Retardation Services. He also cited Glass' local connections and the fact that he is a licensed clinical psychologist.

"I think the direction they want to go in, they're going to need strong clinical leadership," Evans said. "They could have gone out and gotten more of a corporate type."

Asked whether his department would reconsider the decision to stop sending Medicaid patients to Friends' emergency room, Evans said he would be open to that at some point, assuming the hospital focuses on patient safety and fundamentals, but said no decision would be made in the near future.

Sauvageau said the city's July 1 ruling had resulted in a 6 percent to 7 percent decline in Friends' patient population.

Before going to work at the North Philadelphia Health System in 2007, Glass was chief executive of WES Corp., a community mental-health center in the city. In 2006, he served on a mayoral commission to study children's behavioral health.

A graduate of Bartram High School, he earned his doctorate in clinical psychology from Columbia University and holds a finance certificate from Harvard Business School.

He said he was attracted to the Friends job in part because of the hospital's faith-based culture, referring to its Quaker origins. For-profit Psychiatric Solutions bought its stake in the hospital in 2007, but the Quaker-affiliated Scattergood Foundation retains 20 percent ownership.

"That to me is a natural fit," Glass said, vowing to focus on the needs of a fragile patient population.

"You have to respond in a very human way and in a very Friends way," he said.

Contact staff writer Tom Avril at 215-854-2430 or tavril@phillynews.com.

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