For first time in its history, Betty Ford Center to be led by female administrator

Tessa Voss promoted to guide storied addiction, mental health treatment center into fifth decade
Learn About Hazelden Betty Ford

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (Dec. 16, 2021)—When the Betty Ford Center—the most recognized addiction treatment and mental health care provider in the world—celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2022, it will do so under the guidance of Tessa Voss, who today was announced as the fourth administrator and  first woman to lead the Rancho Mirage institution co-founded by former First Lady Betty Ford.

Voss, who takes the helm on Monday, Dec. 20, also will serve as vice president of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's California Region, leading the Betty Ford Center as well as treatment centers in San Diego and Los Angeles. She has devoted her entire career to the Foundation, which includes the Betty Ford Center and is the nation's largest nonprofit system of substance use disorder treatment, mental health care, recovery resources and related prevention and education services.

"Tessa has achieved a lot in our organization and embodies the spirit of humility, empathy and grace that is so important to the work we do with patients, families and children," said Hazelden Betty Ford President and CEO Joseph Lee, MD. "As the first woman to direct operations at the Betty Ford Center, Tessa broadens the banner of our leadership team nationally and extends the legacy and pioneering spirit of our co-founder and namesake Mrs. Ford, who—though not its operational leader—was the Betty Ford Center's face and voice for almost 30 years. With Tessa as our ambassador and leader in California, I am very excited about the future and the many lives and families our teams there will be able to impact in the years ahead."

Located next to Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, the Betty Ford Center employs 230 people, has 184 treatment beds and is in the early stages of a $30 million, four-year campus transformation that will expand capacity to 240 beds. It provides all levels of care, from residential to outpatient, and offers dedicated mental health services, virtual services, sober living residences, immersive medical and other professional education experiences, and unique programs in Spanish and English for young children and others affected by addiction in the family.

Voss has been the executive director at the Betty Ford Center since October 2019, and has been instrumental in its successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She mentored with Christopher Yadron, PhD, and succeeds him as administrator and vice president. Last summer, Yadron became CEO of a treatment center in the eastern United States.

"It is a tremendous and humbling honor to lead our incredible family of caregivers, educators, alumni and donors, whose commitment to our mission during the pandemic has been inspiring and vitally important to the communities we serve," Voss said. "I'm a counselor at heart, committed first and foremost to the clinical care we provide, and am happy to say the Betty Ford Center is a stronger force of healing and hope today than ever before—with even better days ahead, thanks to our exceptional team and many generous supporters. We are excited to grow, build more bridges to the communities we serve, and continue expanding the rich legacy Mrs. Ford launched four decades ago." 

While earning a bachelor's degree in psychology and Spanish from the University of Minnesota in Morris, Minn., Voss—a native of Fridley, Minn.—experienced the pain of addiction up close, losing several friends in the early days of the opioid crisis. That inspired her to later pursue and earn a master's degree in addiction studies at the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies. Afterward, she spent five years as a counselor at Hazelden Betty Ford in Center City, Minn., which shares a campus with the graduate school and is the largest treatment center in the Hazelden Betty Ford system. In Center City, Voss helped launch Hazelden Betty Ford's innovative and influential Comprehensive Opioid Response with Twelve Steps (COR-12®) approach to treating opioid addiction and led the first COR-12 therapy group for women.

From Minnesota, Voss moved to Oregon to become an addiction program manager at Hazelden Betty Ford in Newberg, where in 2017, she was promoted to director of clinical services, a leadership role she held for two years before transitioning to the Betty Ford Center. For seven years, Voss also served as an adjunct faculty member at the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School. In addition, she completed special assignments at Hazelden Betty Ford campuses in St. Paul and Plymouth, Minn.

"We highly value and invest in the development and advancement of our employees, and are able to provide a broad array of opportunities, and Tessa has taken full advantage – studying, teaching, providing care, and successfully leading teams throughout our system," said John Driscoll, Hazelden Betty Ford's senior vice president of Recovery Services. "Not only does Tessa bring the right spirit to this work, but through all of her experiences she has developed into an excellent operational leader and team builder, earning the enthusiastic confidence of everyone she works with and supports."

"I am so grateful for the opportunities this organization has afforded me, which I will pay forward in my commitment to our long-term future," Voss added. "I want the Betty Ford Center to thrive for another 40 years and beyond, strengthen its strong community ties, and become an even more vibrant and accessible source of healing and hope for the next generation. With so many families hurting during and in the wake of the pandemic, we know our services are needed more than ever, and we're ready now to expand and work with community partners to meet the growing demand for quality, professional help."

Susan Ford Bales, daughter to the late Mrs. Ford and longtime member of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's Board of Trustees, was involved in Voss's interview process and said she is thrilled about the promotion.

"As a strong advocate for women, my mother would be so happy and proud to see a woman leading the treatment center she and U.S. Ambassador Leonard Firestone started almost 40 years ago," Bales said. "I'm also grateful to know how much Tessa cares about the staff at the Betty Ford Center, and how committed she is—like my mom was—to helping children and families. It will be exciting to support her as we transform the campus, expand services and accessibility, open up additional health care employment opportunities in the Coachella Valley, and celebrate the Betty Ford Center's 40th anniversary. It's gratifying to know the future of my mother's legacy is in such capable hands."

Among Voss's early priorities will be hiring a clinical director to fill the gap created by her promotion and a medical director to succeed Alta DeRoo, MD, who last month was promoted to chief medical officer for the entire Foundation. Meanwhile, Janelle Wesloh, a longtime Hazelden Betty Ford vice president who stepped in to fill the Betty Ford Center administrator role on an interim basis, will now transition to a permanent role overseeing Hazelden Betty Ford's East Region while also continuing her leadership of the Foundation's clinical excellence and recovery management functions.

About the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

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.