A Betty Ford-Hazelden mega-alliance appears in the works | Behavioral Healthcare Executive Skip to content Skip to navigation

A Betty Ford-Hazelden mega-alliance appears in the works

June 6, 2013
by Gary A. Enos, Contributing Editor
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At a time when partnerships and mergers have become commonplace in the addiction treatment industry, the most recently announced of the potential marriages would have the fanfare of a royal wedding.

The Betty Ford Center and Hazelden, two iconic facilities but also centers whose leaders have not been hesitant to break from convention and even ruffle feathers in the industry, announced this week that their respective boards have agreed in principle to establishing a formal alliance.

A joint statement issued by the two centers on June 4 did not specify how an alliance might be structured. A spokesperson for Hazelden added when contacted for this article that there would be no further comment for the time being.

But the statement leaves no doubt as to what is driving the serious discussions: the notion that even the most recognizable names in the business must consider ways to strengthen their position as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) changes numerous assumptions about service delivery.

“The good news is that many more Americans who desperately need help will be eligible to receive quality treatment for their addiction to alcohol or other drugs,” said Judge Susan Fox Gillis, who chairs Hazelden’s Board of Trustees. “The challenge will be to pay for that expanded coverage and service. At this stage it appears that institutionally, only the strong will survive.”

Betty Ford Center Board of Directors Chair Mary Pattiz emphasized the close relationship that has existed over time between the two organizations, with Betty Ford looking to Hazelden’s well-established model of 12-Step treatment in Minnesota when the California facility was launched in the early 1980s.

Ironically, one of the 12-Step driven Hazelden’s most high-profile moves in the past couple of years involved the decision to embrace long-term maintenance treatment on medication as an option for some opiate addicts—a leap that few other 12-Step based organizations have been willing to negotiate.

At the same time, the Betty Ford Center’s outspoken chief executive, John Schwarzlose, has been critical of questionable business practices at some centers that he believes have tarnished the reputation of the addiction field. These concerns have been behind the Betty Ford Center’s absence in recent years from the member rolls of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP).

Gillis said in the joint statement that as discussions toward a formal alliance proceed, it could be argued that the top priority from the Betty Ford Center’s perspective will be to continue to honor the late Mrs. Ford’s legacy. Gillis added that members of the Ford family are playing a critical role in the current discussions with Hazelden.