New CEO of Hazelden Betty Ford puts focus on increasing access to communities of color

The Hazelden Betty Ford campus in Plymouth, Minnesota. (FOX 9)

A spot focused on healing and recovery in the Twin Cities metro has a new leader.

This week, Dr. Joseph Lee became the president and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. As an Asian American, he’s the first non-white leader of the organization.

After seeing demand for treatment services skyrocket amid the pandemic, Dr. Lee’s focus is on increasing access, especially to communities of color.

"Well, there are people who need help, but they don't know how to access help or they can't get help," said Dr. Lee. "And we are really thinking about being a part of the solution with that."

Hazelden Betty Ford has created a series called "Recovery, Equity" as it makes a renewed push for diversity.

"The organization has always been deeply committed to serving, you know, what has been a marginalized and underserved population," said Andrew Williams, the Hazelden Betty Ford director of diversity, equity and inclusion. "And really, this is, I think, a really unique opportunity for us to more fully live our mission."

Williams says his goal in this role is to deepen the organization’s commitment to advance diversity, equity, inclusion.

That’s in part where Turning Point comes in. Turning Point is an African American-run treatment center with 45 years of roots in north Minneapolis. It’s more than recovery. For example, in one class participants learned how to save lives with CPR.

Hazelden just formed a new partnership with Turning Point that founder Peter Hayden says will help him better serve his community.

"They help me, by now I can get my clients or my staff people to go to their school," said Hayden. "They have a master degree program. They can go to the school and get qualified, certified for their school versus me going to other places, who when it comes to being a cultural issue, they don't understand what it is."

"And they're helping us in exchange to broaden our pool, broaden our base," said Dr. Lee. "How do we think about treatment differently to reach a more diverse population? So it's been incredibly synergistic."

It’s about culture and what both organizations can learn from each other, especially to help the community.

"When you say I went to Turning Point, which is associated with Hazelden Betty Ford. Oh, it's a win-win for African-Americans," said Hayden.

"So I think if there's any time in history where the average American would understand what it's like to have an addiction issue or a mental health issue, this is it," said Lee. "And this can be a rallying point, just like it's been for our organization to help more people."