After more than a year of planning, Ashley Addiction Treatment has formally announced its CEO succession plans, with senior vice presidents Alex Denstman and Greg Hobelmann, MD, set to be elevated as joint CEOs on March 1, taking over for outgoing chief executive Dave Nassef.
Denstman will lead business development operations, including alumni services, clinical outreach, finance, intake, marketing, talent management and human resources. Hobelmann’s jurisdiction, meanwhile, will cover clinical and medical services, outpatient care, psychology and psychiatry, quality, compliance and safety, research, and spiritual care and wellness services. The two will share responsibilities around broader strategic planning for growth, development of Ashley’s model of care, inclusion and equity, budgeting, thought leadership, and hiring executive-level staff.
Denstman tells BHE that the idea for he and Hobelmann to share CEO responsibilities was first pitched to the Ashley board of directors by Nassef in October 2019.
“When we were first looking at this, we did a lot of research on whether this is a viable model, whether it’s a good idea,” Hobelmann adds. “Has it worked in the past? How has it worked? That took up a lot of our hours in succession planning. … Looking at Ashley and the two of us, we’ve worked together, we have a clear shared vision of what we’d like to see for Ashley in terms of general growth and quality. And we have our unique skill sets that we’ll continue to be able to pursue in a co-leadership model.”
Denstman joined Ashley in 2009 as a case manager, and steadily moved up the organization into a business development position. The company credits him with more than doubling its provider relationships and establishing partnerships with major commercial payers.
Hobelmann, who also joined Ashley in 2009, has 23 years of medical experience and previously served as chief resident in the anesthesia and psychiatric departments at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He maintains certification in psychiatry and addiction medicine, and has implemented several programs at Ashley and established a partnership with Johns Hopkins Hospital and its schools of medicine to address the opioid epidemic.
As joint CEO, Hobelmann says he wants to study Ashley’s overall model of care to make sure it is up-to-date and evidence-based, maintaining the organization’s tradition with regard to what its founders, Father Joseph Martin and Mae Ashley Abraham, created, while implementing additional services as needed to improve care.
“I see a way for us both to be supremely effective in our respective roles and have those joint decisions—high-level recruitment and hiring, budget planning, acquisitions and growth, the inclusion and equity initiatives we’ve been working on the past few months, refining our model of care... With those bigger ticket items, the old adage ‘two heads are better than one’ I think is going to prove invaluable for us,” Denstman says.
Even before they officially become joint CEOs, Hobelmann and Denstman have gotten to take their co-leadership arrangement on a test run of sorts navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Under Nassef, the pair have been involved with decisions around reducing Ashley’s patient capacity, as well as strengthening its stabilization unit and telehealth services.
“What it proved was that Alex and I are very much like-minded,” Hobelmann says. “We work well together. And we have a very strong staff that has stepped up remarkably and will continue to do so as we transition into our joint CEO roles.”