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New Bedford Light: Southcoast Health CEO on leave after domestic assault, ammunition charges

Southcoast Health website
Southcoast Behavioral Health in Dartmouth

Earlier this month, the president and CEO of Southcoast Health, the major hospital group in the region, was arrested on domestic abuse charges and illegal ammunition charges. Keith Hovan has taken a paid leave of absence and is due in court next week.

CAI Producer Sam Houghton discussed the reporting from New Bedford Light reporter Anastasia Lennon.

Sam Houghton: What do we know happened at the Hoven household and what charges have police brought?

Anastasia Lennon: So, officers responded to Hovan's home late Saturday evening after his daughter called 9-1-1. Reports state that Hoven then exited the home covered in a liquid smelling like alcohol, and that Hovan reportedly said something along the lines of, "It was me. I did it. My arm hit her in the face."
His wife had droplets of blood and also a mark on her face that became a bruise. She had said that an argument started over a television show, but it became physical when she started writing in her journal, which Hovan reportedly tried to grab.

Hovan later said when he had to return to the home so that police could retrieve his firearms and ammunition, that it was an unfortunate incident.

He apologized for losing his temper, and as of now, he's facing a misdemeanor charge for a domestic assault and battery and then a potential second charge, which is a felony, for alleged possession of illegal firearm ammunition.

SH: Following your reporting, domestic abuse survivors, they're frustrated with Southcoast Health's response. You spoke to a number of survivors. What are they saying?

AL: Yes, I spoke with two survivors of domestic violence who also work for local organizations. And they're disappointed. They find it "mind blowing," one said. They feel that it almost praised Hovan for quote, "immediately coming forward." That was the first statement from the board of Trustees of Southcoast Health, and that they worry it could discourage victims of domestic violence when coming forward, given they saw the initial response as sort of a slap on the wrist. He was permitted to continue as CEO and president because the board is the body that oversees him.

SH What have you heard from their board of trustees or have you heard anything from Hovan and what comes next or where we are now?

AL: So the board of trustees has largely been silent. Southcoast Health has an outside PR firm based in Boston that's fielding all media inquiries now regarding this matter. I tried my best to get in touch with all the board members. There are 16 of them. For some, it was hard to track down and those I was able to get in touch by email or phone, I just never got a reply or they directed me to the media spokesperson. So they're not really saying much.

They issued a statement on Tuesday, a few days after the incident and then a few days following that. But then I haven't heard from Holden. I initially tried to reach out to Healthline and then also through the spokesperson.

Hovan has released a statement saying that the allegations have caused an unfair distraction to the staff at Southcoast Health, and that he is taking a paid leave of absence.

Sam Houghton left CAI in February, 2023, to become News Editor at the Martha's Vineyard Times.
He worked at CAI since the summer of 2017. Before that, he worked at the Falmouth Enterprise, where he covered local politics.