In the wake of Ellen Breyer's resignation - she will leave her post as Hazelden's CEO in early April - the venerable non-profit will be left rudderless at a time when most of the institution's top management posts, from CFO on down, remain vacant. And the ubiquitous William Cope Moyers, who has become the face of Hazelden as its external affairs VP, has reached a deal with the non-profit's board to stay on - the board was, by all accounts, very eager to keep Cope Moyers - after he gave his notice to Ellen Breyer last year.
The board may have been far less eager for Breyer to stay on, accepting her resignation and thanking her. Hazelden Board Chair Norbert Conzemius told Treatment Magazine that Breyer had made a "verbal promise" to stay at Hazelden for five years, but the board had not previously signaled that would be the length of Breyer's tenure and, thus, many view the CEO's departure as sudden. While the board listed Breyer's accomplishments - a new Women's Center, the creation of a public advocacy center, etc... - they did not mention another of Breyer's legacies - unprecedented turmoil in the top executive ranks of the non-profit, with some of the former executives complaining bitterly how they did not enjoy working with Breyer.
Virtually the entire top echelon of executives just under Breyer - Treatment Magazine estimates that as many as eight - quit last year, including the CFO, the market development chief and the chief medical officer.
And Breyer did little to counter - and, in fact, her often brusque abrasive manner exacerbated - a growing perception that Hazelden was arrogant with little to be arrogant about anymore. Says one top executive at a major non-profit: "They have ridden the coattails of the 12-Step Model for too long, failing to modernize and update their approaches." Thus, as private pay became increasingly critical to the private center payor mix, centers like Sierra Tucson, The Meadows and many others began to vastly eclipse Hazelden in their clinical reputations. In this new competitive environment, Hazelden began to find it had strong competition for key private pay clientele, as professional referral sources more and more began to view other centers as being on the cutting edge. Better managed, and faster growing, toptier private non-profits steadfastly refused to deal with managed care providers, disliking their meddling in clinical decisions and their meagre reimbursements. But Hazelden may have found it increasingly difficult to compete for the self pay dollar and, thus, managed care contracts became critical, especially a huge 2003 deal with Minnesota Blue Cross, a deal put together by former development chief Tom Galligan. Now accounting for a very big percentage of Hazelden's sales - none of the other top tier non-profits even remotely do such a large managed care business - Galligan says the Blue Cross deal was "critical" in helping stablize Hazelden's revenues.
And now it remains to be seen if a new CEO at Hazelden can get the venerable center back on track, re-energize its demoralized workforce, hire top execs and reestablish a reputation for cutting edge clinical excellence. With Breyer staying on as a consultant until just June, the board is perhaps moving swiftly to select a CEO, who will no doubt take up his duties at Hazelden's new downtown Minneapolis corporate offices. The non-profit having recently, and controversially, decided on the move, the current downtown offices are temporary while a permanent downtown home for corporate is found.