Glenwood History and Founders
Glenwood began in 1973 as a private, nonprofit organization. From the beginning, its mission was clear: form an agency devoted to providing treatment, education, and research in the area of children’s mental health.
A small group of community leaders including: Vera Bruhn, Cecil Bauer, Judge Ross Bell, Barbara Camp, Lucius Colvin, Jack Cress, Charlotte Dollar, Tricia Echols, Dr. Robert Estock, Dean Gambrell, Jim Gewin, Ethel Gorman, Dr. Ann Harper, Myron Harper, Bill Hinds, Fay Ireland, Mallie and Glenn Ireland, Paula Kimerling, Marti Kitchens, Dr. Patrick Linton, Dr. Andrew Lorincz, Shirley and Charles Seay, Joe Shaw, Dr. Alan Sheeley, Nancy Smith, Dr. Joe Smythies, Doris Tate, Rev. Martin Tilson, and Dr. Herman Willcutt founded the organization as Child Mental Health Services.
This was during a time prior to Public Law 94-142 (Education of All Handicapped Children Act), which entitled all children to a free, appropriate public education. This group of community leaders was aware of the special needs of children who could not easily be served in existing programs and who were often excluded from services. Their mission was to respond to that need. Their vision was to develop “a special place for special people.”
With an eye toward combining treatment and educational services for severely emotionally disturbed children who were often excluded from other programs, a pilot program named for the pioneering clinician, Dr. Allan Cott, first opened its doors in 1974 as a school using space donated by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Eighteen students diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and severe emotional disorders were enrolled. The foundation of what was to become Glenwood had been laid.
Almost immediately the demand for services soared. Between 1974 and 1983, new and innovative programs were developed to serve the growing client base including residential treatment for children and adults. Several facilities were rented to operate these programs. It quickly became apparent that more room was required if Glenwood was to continue to respond to the highly specialized needs of the children and adults. In recognition of this unaddressed need and with community support, over $13 million was raised to build Glenwood’s permanent home. The Glenwood campus, located on 363 acres of land in southeast Jefferson County, was constructed in phases beginning in 1983 and its facilities continue to expand in order to better accommodate and anticipate programmatic efforts that best serve the children and adults for whom its programs are intended.
From a single staff member in 1974 to a full compliment of over 350 staff persons today, Glenwood’s team of respected clinicians, medical and educational teams, direct care staff, administration and support personnel continues to lend the professionalism and compassion that has distinguished Glenwood above other autism and behavioral-based care agencies. Glenwood currently touches the lives of around 10,000 individuals each year with care in a wide variety of settings. These include home and school based services, campus based programs, and services offered in communities and neighborhoods statewide. Glenwood’s leadership in autism and behavioral health programming will continue providing and advocating for excellence in client care.