Hazelden Foundation: David Hill, Corporate VP of Facilities and Support Services

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In a Minnesota farmhouse in the late 1940s, men suffering from alcohol addiction began to gather for support and to find a cure. Sixty years later, Hazelden has grown into one of the world’s most respected alcohol and drug addiction treatment centers in the nation. People from every state and more than 40 countries have come to Hazelden to regain control of their lives. Treatment programs across the nation have adopted methods of addiction treatment that originated at Hazelden.

There are now Hazelden facilities in Minnesota, Oregon, Illinois and New York. In 2008, the non-profit group served more than 10,000 clients and sold nearly 3 million addiction, treatment, and recovery products including books, videos, and curriculum. $5.3 million in financial assistance was given to patients who could not afford treatment.

Sustaining Lifelong Recovery from Addiction

The current Twelve Step model for all abstinence-based addiction treatment programs was developed and refined by Hazelden staff members in the 1950s and 1960s and is now known as the Hazelden Model. Early on, Hazelden recognized the importance of an interdisciplinary model of care which included mental health, physical health, emotional support, and family support.

Unlike other addiction treatment centers, Hazelden has a research program which carefully monitors and studies the organization’s work in recovery and performs thorough follow-ups with patients to determine effectiveness. Hazelden has been monitoring treatment outcomes of clients for more than 20 years and has a record that includes a 54% success rate for patients who maintain an alcohol and drug free lifestyle for the first full year after treatment. An additional 35% of Hazelden clients report significant decreases in their use of alcohol or drugs. This is extremely high compared to other Twelve Step-based treatment programs. While methods of measurement of success in such programs are inconsistently collected and difficult to compare, some sources suggest that a 5-10% recovery rate is more typical.

The philosophy of treatment at Hazelden is based on the treatment of addiction as a disease and the belief that abstinence is the best way to manage the condition. Services range from outpatient, for less severe addiction problems, to residential programs where a patient stays in a Hazelden facility for 30 days or longer, depending on the extremes of the problem and individual needs. The organization offers an array of services for both adults and youth, as well as specialized programs for professionals, for example, in areas such as healthcare, law, and aviation.

Growing with Flexibility

Hazelden is currently in the midst of a $10.4 million expansion project, starting with the facility in Oregon. “We’re adding several beds for our extended care program,” says David Hill, Corporate VP of Facilities and Support Services. “And we’re significantly upgrading the mechanical and electrical system.” The renovations will include additional office space, group rooms, and landscaping. Hill expects the project to be completed in early 2010.

“Whether it is the west coast or the Midwest, the philosophy that we’ve developed over the years for renovation and new construction is flexibility,” says Hill. “We really look at designing space with flexibility, knowing that the field changes and our needs change rapidly. We want flexibility in our design because we know that there’s often a different requirement for primary care , extended care and the other programs we offer. The space may be used differently three to four years from now.”

Securing the Campus Environment

From a facilities standpoint, Hill says that the field of addiction treatment services has experienced a change in security and emergency preparedness expectations in the last decade. “That manifests itself in some of the design decisions that we are making,” he says. “How you respond to an emergency and how you move people and material around the campus is something we put more time into since 9/11, whether it’s an emergency, something related to the weather, or something more serious. We are more like a campus than an acute care hospital. We try to keep these types of things behind the scenes, because we don’t want to cause undue concern to our patients and visitors, but it is all factored in to everything from our design to our work policies and procedures. We are much more in tune to things like that then we were a decade ago. Our security and safety measures are seamless and integrated into our daily operations and have become part of our culture”.

Keeping Potential in Mind

The group also emphasizes the potentials of technology as they are upgrading old facilities and building new ones. “Obviously, as people become more connected, particularly from an education and a continuum of care perspective, more and more people are looking to their healthcare and their long-term sobriety through ongoing education programs and ongoing connectivity to different venues,” says Hill.

Fiber optic cabling and other advanced technological data systems are being installed as part of the construction process, according to Hill. “We may not be fully utilizing some of these systems right now, but we believe we will grow into these areas as need and opportunity presents itself.”

Touching Lives Every Day

Hill says it is also important that the organization create a very home-like atmosphere. They don’t want it to resemble an institution in any way. “We’re not by any stretch of the imagination a lock down facility,” says Hill. “Our patients come to us for treatment and help, and we really try to create an atmosphere where it’s very homelike … a warm and inviting, safe atmosphere where people can heal and receive their treatment and get better There is a strong focus at Hazelden to treat patients and staff with dignity and respect, privacy and confidentiality are paramount in all of our decisions whether it relates to the physical environment or individually as members of our healthcare team.”

Hazelden’s mission is about helping people to sustain a lifelong recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. They believe in treating the whole person, as well as the disease of addiction, and they have found that it takes programs that focus on the mental, the physical, and the spiritual health of an individual to meet this goal. Sixty years ago, they were one of the first organizations that began looking at addiction as a treatable illness, and that focus has made them leaders in the field of addiction treatment and counseling.

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