CENTER CITY, Minn. (July 28, 2021) – At an institution known around the world for its addiction treatment and mental health care, Dr. Valerie Slaymaker has expanded the impact of two other areas in which the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope: education and research. After 22 years with the nonprofit, Dr. Slaymaker—vice president of research and education for the Foundation and chief academic officer and provost of the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies—will retire this September knowing the school's sought-after alumni and the Foundation's robust research are helping countless individuals, families and communities in the U.S. and abroad.
"It's been my honor to serve an organization with such a strong mission, making a difference in so many places and in so many ways—from education, research, prevention, treatment and recovery support to publishing, consulting and public advocacy," Dr. Slaymaker said. "I truly love the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and am grateful for the wonderful opportunities I've had to contribute to both the organization and the profession of addiction treatment. I'm especially grateful for the people with whom I've had the pleasure of collaborating and could not be more confident in my outstanding team of leaders, whose areas I know will continue to grow, thrive, and do great things."
Dr. Slaymaker, who earned her PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, began her Hazelden (now Hazelden Betty Ford) career as a clinical psychologist in Center City, Minn., where the organization was founded in 1949 and is still headquartered. She then worked as a research scientist and later became executive director of Hazelden's Butler Center for Research. In 2008, Dr. Slaymaker was promoted to vice president of education and research and to chief academic officer and provost of the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies, which became the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies following the 2014 merger of Hazelden and the Betty Ford Center in California. The graduate school and Butler Center are on the same Center City campus where Dr. Slaymaker first worked as a clinician.
"It has been a rewarding experience to lead a research center and graduate school that share space with the patients and working professionals of the nation's largest nonprofit specialty addiction and mental health care center," Dr. Slaymaker said. "Because of the co-location, we've been uniquely able to translate research and education into practice over many years, and to routinely study and learn from our outcomes. There's no place quite like it."
Under Dr. Slaymaker's leadership as chief academic officer and provost the past 13 years, the graduate school has doubled its annual enrollment and doubled its percentage of students of color (from 7% to approximately 14%). Nearly all students who take their licensing or certification examination within six months of graduation pass the first time and 92% successfully obtain a job within six months. In 2015, the school launched a 60-credit online master's degree in Integrated Recovery for Co-Occurring Disorders—reducing barriers to counselor education and reaching students across the United States.
"Dr. Slaymaker has played a role in the lives and careers of hundreds of professional counselors and leaders doing phenomenal work, bringing healing and hope to people across the United States and globe," said Hazelden Betty Ford President and CEO Joseph Lee, MD. "Her foresight and vision to create online degree options; her focus on diversity; and her steadfast commitment to ongoing accreditation, quality and—first and foremost—student success has helped prepare the next generation of addiction counselors, with a positive impact that will endure for years."
In her role as research leader, Dr. Slaymaker has collaborated with colleagues from Virginia Commonwealth University, Mayo Clinic, Rutgers, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, and many others across the country. She has published more than 30 articles and book chapters in peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes, and presented more than 30 research projects at national conferences. Among her many impactful research projects was one with colleagues at the University of Michigan and Penn State University, examining daily craving levels among patients in early abstinence from substance use; it was among the research contributing to an American Psychiatric Association task force decision to add craving as a criterion for substance use disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Dr. Slaymaker has also been a consistent advocate for the adoption and integration of evidence-based practices in specialized addiction treatment, and was an early advocate within Hazelden Betty Ford for the use of anti-craving medications such as acamprosate and naltrexone.
"Dr. Slaymaker has been a standard-bearer for science and academic rigor at Hazelden Betty Ford—all in service of our mission, our industry and the people who turn to us every day for care or professional training," said Dr. Lee. "She has set the bar for years to come."
In addition to her leadership of the graduate school and Butler Center for Research, Dr. Slaymaker leads Hazelden Betty Ford's strategic initiatives and process improvement functions, and is responsible for bringing formal Lean process improvement methodology into the organization. In years past, Dr. Slaymaker also has led the medical education and professionals-in-residence programs, and Hazelden Betty Ford's prevention arm known as FCD Prevention Works.
She joins two other longtime Hazelden Betty Ford executives who are retiring this year. Together, they have almost 75 years of combined service with the organization.
"I knew coming in as CEO that we had a group of remarkable senior leaders nearing retirement, and I'm grateful to glean insights from them as we celebrate their legacy, build on their foundation, and grow into an even greater force of healing and hope," Dr. Lee said.
The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As the nation's leading nonprofit provider of comprehensive inpatient and outpatient addiction and mental health care for adults and youth, the Foundation has treatment centers and telehealth services nationwide as well as a network of collaborators throughout health care. Through charitable support and a commitment to innovation, the Foundation is able to continually enhance care, research, programs and services, and help more people. With a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center, the Foundation today is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in its services and throughout the organization, which also encompasses a graduate school of addiction studies, a publishing division, an addiction research center, recovery advocacy and thought leadership, professional and medical education programs, school-based prevention resources and a specialized program for children who grow up in families with addiction. Learn more at HazeldenBettyFord.org and on Twitter.