Hazelden Betty Ford's new CEO taking over at a critical time

Dr. Joseph Lee will lead Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation as the world emerges from the pandemic. (FOX 9)

A new doctor is taking the helm at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation at an all-important time.

Dr. Joseph Lee, the medical director for Hazelden’s Youth Continuum in Plymouth, is the foundation’s new CEO, taking over at a time when the pandemic has led more people into substance abuse and addiction.

"We saw early in the pandemic that people were scared," said Dr. Lee.

Dr. Joseph Lee has seen a different, and hidden side of the pandemic. We’ve all seen the testing and the vaccines meant to save lives. But the isolation of the pandemic has also destroyed them.

"I know that as a doctor, I've had more people reach out to me this year concerned about their loved ones, their children, especially mental health concerns," said Dr. Lee. "More than any other time of my career, so I know the need is there. I know access problems are there."

As the new president of Hazelden Betty Ford, Dr. Lee also believes there is a positive side to the crisis.

"I think for the first time the rest of America gets what loneliness isolation and suffering is really about," said Dr. Lee. "And I think that ray of hope and empathy can help defeat some of the stigma. And really get people the services they need."

Hazelden Betty Ford is already changing to meet those needs. Its recovery program has migrated online in a platform called "Recovery Go." It offers access to Hazelden from anywhere; distance is no longer a barrier. "We're truly going to meet people where they're at and that's not just the philosophical thing, that's not just psychologically where people are. We have to think creatively about where people live. The apps, the interface with using technology, using virtual services and even more and so that's just to start we're going to be more creative to meet people where they're at to improve engagement, We're going to uplift other voices, help other clinics and partner and new and bold ways scientifically and otherwise."

For those struggling with isolation and addiction, Dr. Lee offers this: "I want them to know that they should not be shuttered in by shame or fear or stigma that there is hope for them. There's a community for them, there is love and support for them their scientific backing for that support, and that they can get well."