Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation History

You may not think that creating a humane, healing environment for people with addiction is a remarkable concept. But the approach was almost unheard of decades ago when the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation came to be.
Happy friends celebrating the success with high five

Established in 1949 on lakeside acreage in Center City, Minnesota, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation had its beginnings in a compassionate, holistic and forward-thinking approach to the disease of alcoholism. You could say the approach was ahead of its time.

Why? Two words: dignity and respect. A promotional brochure from the organization’s earliest days shows photographs of the farmhouse-turned-treatment center—a wood-paneled library, the gracious dining room and a bright sunroom. Even more than these warm and welcoming images, the brochure’s messaging offered a new kind of understanding and encouragement: “Alcoholism is recognized at Hazelden for what it is—a disease—and not a moral deficiency.”

Remember, this was in 1949. In those days, people with addiction were seen as lacking character and willpower. Two options existed for “the chronic inebriate” in Minnesota: a psychiatric ward in where addiction was viewed as more of a complicating factor than an actual disorder, or the institutional environment of a state hospital.

By contrast, Hazelden opened on the banks of South Center Lake as a refuge for “the convalescent alcoholic”—a place of nature strolls, easy chairs, long conversations over coffee and a holistic approach to healing the body, mind and spirit. 

Today, in harnessing science, love and the wisdom of lived experience, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope across the country and around the world for families and communities affected by substance use and mental health conditions.

The Foundation’s legacy began in 1949 and advanced with the 1982 founding of the iconic Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California. As the nation's foremost nonprofit provider of comprehensive behavioral healthcare, Hazelden Betty Ford now has treatment centers and telehealth services nationwide as well as a network of collaborators throughout health care.

In addition to clinical care, Hazelden Betty Ford encompasses a graduate school of addiction studies, a publishing division, a research center, thought leadership and advocacy, professional and medical education programs, school-based prevention resources and a specialized program for children—with a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in all of our endeavors.

How the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's History of Innovation Shaped the Field of Addiction Treatment and Recovery


Dignity and Respect. Hazelden Foundation opens in Center City, Minnesota; AA's Twelve Steps and respect for each patient are core aspects of care.


Documenting Effectiveness. Hazelden reports serving 156 men in first 20 months, noting 78 percent "have recovered and demonstrated marked progress."


Sober Living Model. Fellowship Club opens in St. Paul, Minnesota, a halfway house for men that advances the concept of sober-living residences.


Self-Help Books. Hazelden enters the publishing industry by acquiring Twenty-Four Hours a Day; helps to launch the self-help literature genre.


Care for Women. Dia Linn opens in Dellwood, Minnesota, one of the first residential addiction treatment centers designed for women.


Substance Dependence. Hazelden coins the term "chemical dependency," broadening its scope to treat all substance dependencies—not just alcohol.


Multidisciplinary Approach. Psychology is integrated into treatment, initiating development of the multidisciplinary "Minnesota Model" emulated worldwide.


Training Treatment Professionals. Counselor training program begins; leads to establishment of Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies in 1999.


Therapeutic Community Design. Major expansion positions patient units around a central administration hub; innovative design is widely emulated in health care.


Spiritual Care. Full-time chaplain joins staff, solidifying non-religious spiritual care as a key component of multidisciplinary treatment.


Family Healing. Family conferences are incorporated into care, paving the way for a formal Family Program, launched in 1972.


Relapse Prevention. The first formal aftercare program introduced, advancing the chronic-illness treatment model.


Research-Informed Care. Hazelden launches its first formal outcomes study; leads to establishment of the Butler Center for Research in 1977.


Professionals in Residence. Program brings professionals to campus to shadow clinicians and patients; Summer Institute for Medical Students begins in 1988.


Standard Bearer. Hazelden accredited by Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals; demonstrates commitment to quality standards commensurate with all of health care.


Outpatient Services. Partnership with local hospital brings Hazelden's first outpatient program to St. Paul; new level of care meets treatment needs of more people.


Specialty Care for Teens. Pioneer House in Plymouth, Minnesota, is acquired as a specialized treatment center for adolescents and young adults.


First Lady of Recovery. Betty Ford Center opens in Rancho Mirage, California, bringing unprecedented visibility to addiction, treatment and recovery.


Recovery Retreats. Renewal Center opens, welcoming guests to an unrivaled roster of Twelve Step inspired retreats and workshops.


Bold Advocacy. Former First Ladies Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter lobby together in Washington, DC, to promote treatment; Betty Ford Center and Hazelden have influential public policy role from this point forward.


Brave New World. Hazelden web page arrives on the Internet, exponentially increasing access to information about addiction and access to help.


For the Kids. Betty Ford Center develops a pioneering Children's Program, distinguished for prevention effectiveness in landmark 2004 study.


Care for Caregivers. Betty Ford Center launches a Health Care Professionals treatment program focusing on return-to-practice and other specific recovery issues.


Web-Based Recovery Support. Hazelden implements My Ongoing Recovery Experience (MORE®), a web-based patient portal to continuing care resources.


Instance Encouragement. Hazelden Publishing releases its first mobile app, Twenty-Four Hours a Day, introducing anywhere/anytime recovery support, motivation and affirmation.


Medication-Assisted Recovery. Clinicians develop what becomes the field's leading opioid addiction treatment protocol, Comprehensive Opioid Response with the Twelve Steps, COR-12®.


A Force of Healing and Hope. Hazelden and Betty Ford Center merge to form the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the nation's leading nonprofit addiction treatment provider.


Medical School Curriculum. Course on Addiction and Recovery Education (CARE) launches, a first-ever online curriculum for medical students worldwide.


Addressing an Occupational Hazard. Groundbreaking study conducted with ABA on substance use disorders among legal professionals informs recovery efforts specific to this population.


Clinical Collaboration. The Hazelden Betty Ford Patient Care Network forms; a first-in-the field collaboration among health care organizations to improve patient outcomes.


Industry Reform. In testimony before a U.S. House Committee, president and CEO Mark G. Mishek makes the case for stronger quality standards in the addiction treatment industry.


Genetics and Treatment. Collaborative research project begins with Mayo Clinic to identify biological markers that would predict a patient's response to a medication used in treatment of alcohol use disorder.


The innovation continues. As science further reveals the dynamics of addiction, technology allows for increasingly individualized care, and outpatient growth makes care more accessible to more people, treatment at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation continues to evolve—always leading with the respect and dignity that have set our care apart from the beginning.


Download the pdf version of the Hazelden Betty Ford historical timeline.