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Schools & Program Visits - Sept, 2002 Issue #97 

Hazelden Center for Youth and Families
Plymouth, Minnesota


Visited on July 29, 2002
By Loi Eberle, M.A.,
Educational Consultant
Editor of Woodbury Reports

Hazelden Center for Youth and Families (HCYF) is a short-term intervention for adolescents whose primary diagnosis is chemical dependency. When I visited, I was very aware of the fact that the Hazelden Foundation, which was founded in1949, has earned an international reputation for its high quality rehabilitation, education and professional services for chemical dependency and other addictive behaviors. Since 1981, the Hazelden Center for Youth and Families, in Plymouth, Minnesota, has offered individualized recovery programs for young men and women ages 14 –25, and an extended care program for young men ages 14-25. The main Hazelden campus, in Center City, Minnesota, is designed for clients who are over 18. In addition, the Hazelden Mental Health Centers provide a range of outpatient services to residential clients, people who have recently completed primary treatment, and are transitioning back their home, employment, and community life.

As a result of its international reputation, Hazelden attracts people from around the world, many of whom are concerned about issues of confidentiality. When I arrived for my scheduled visit on the Plymouth, Minnesota campus, Kristine Crandall met me at the door. After making sure I understood the issues of privacy in terms of discussions and photographs, she very graciously spent a large portion of the day touring me through their 28-day, and their 90-day adolescent program residences.

I also spoke with Stuart Reedy, Supervisor of Intake and Customer Service, who described their extensive residential and outpatient evaluations, which may take from 7 to 10 days. During this process, the applicant’s use of alcohol or other drugs is assessed by a team of chemical dependency professionals to assure that addiction is the primary issue and that Hazelden will truly meet the client’s needs. In some cases applicants are referred on to another, more appropriate community based service, or residential psychiatric care. Since both the Hazelden Center for Youth and Families at the Plymouth campus and the Center City Center campus serve some of the same aged population, the assessment team determines which campus would be more appropriate. A young man who has the kinds of responsibilities shared by young adults would probably be more suited for the Center City campus, while another same-aged adolescent male might have issues that make it easier for him to relate to adolescents at the Plymouth campus. The Hazelden philosophy is that young people’s “emotional and social ‘ages’ are often directly linked to the time at which they fell into the grasp of alcohol or other drugs” and they recognize the difference between developmental and chronological age.

On the Plymouth campus, the Primary Residential Program and the Extended Care program are housed in two different wings of the same building, separated by a large lunchroom where food is served cafeteria style. During meals, the staff and the students eat at circular tables spread through out a spacious room that is lined with large windows looking out to the fifteen-acre wooded campus that borders the shores of Medicine Lake.

The primary treatment and extended care programs both incorporate the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, offering abstinence based recovery programs that include group therapy, individual counseling, positive peer interaction, family counseling and spiritual care. The Extended Care program offers additional time and support to help young men deal with difficult recovery issues, with special emphasis placed on relapse prevention, and educational/vocational planning. People are often referred to Extended Care from other programs, with a general length of stay ranging from one to three months.

I spoke with Sheila Becking, one of the therapists who help residents coordinate their recovery program based on their readiness. She explained that many of the residents had a dual diagnosis, and in some cases it was appropriate for them to move on to another kind of situation once their chemical dependency needs were addressed. Some residents were not “ready” to begin therapy, while others were quite open to learning coping strategies such as dialectical behavioral therapy, stress-reduction, or work on issues of post-traumatic stress. She explained how HCYF makes an effort to offer as many treatment modalities as possible, though the primary focus of treatment is on issues of chemical dependency. She also described the aftercare groups, chemical dependency halfway houses or outpatient treatment options that can be used to assist in a transition to home, work or school. Twelve-Step groups such as AA or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or additional vocational or psychological counseling are strongly recommended. During lunch I spoke with one of the group leaders who discussed how frequently the young people in his group grapple with having the courage and skill to confront a friend about attitudes or behaviors that will lead to relapse.

As we left the lunchroom to tour each of the wings of the facility, a group of young men were starting their interaction as a group by saying the serenity prayer. They appeared to have energy and enthusiasm, and I learned they were in the extended care part of the program. Then Kristine and I proceeded down the corridor to view the comfortable living accommodations and recreational areas for the residents. With four beds per room, the attractive rooms look out to the wooded area of our neighboring State Park, with no other buildings in sight. Kristine explained that it was intentionally designed to be a restful environment. Each room had a small deck outside sliding glass doors. The residents were allowed to go out on their deck until 11pm, when it was time for the lights to be out. The rooms were not locked, but the doors had an alarm system, so if a resident goes outside on his deck after hours, it alerts a counselor who immediately goes to check on the resident to see if he is having trouble. The residents are basically there voluntarily, though in some cases, it is a voluntary choice that is made in lieu of mandatory incarceration. At the same time, if residents do not wish to stay, they are allowed to leave, since the philosophy of the treatment program is that an individual must be motivated to go through the treatment process, or it will not be effective.

An attempt is made to not let the residents have too much time on their hands so they can remain engaged in their therapeutic work, although residents do have access to recreation and lounge areas that include game activities and TVs for videotapes. In addition to the on-site facilities, the residents also participate in off-campus activities in the neighboring community, as part of their transition back to the “outside world”. I had seen one example of this when I first drove on campus and saw a group of adolescent males casually talking and walking to an off campus activity.

At this HCYF facility, each of the programs has a full multidisciplinary team, which includes doctors, nurses, chemical dependency counselors and technicians, family counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists, spiritual care professionals and recreation specialists. Sheryl Undem, LADC, CADC III, RN, the Clinical Nursing Supervisor, explained to me that in the primary treatment program, which is the first intervention, upon arrival all residents must go through a medical assessment and stabilization with physical exam and 24 hour nursing supervision. She said they recommend to prospective residents that they do not attempt to stop using alcohol or chemicals on their own, but rather, wait until they arrive at the facility, so they can be fully supervised, since in cases of serious addiction, they can become medically unstable. She explained how the “care team” gathers information from the resident, as well as family members and others, to help him or her create a personal plan for recovery. In addition to the various forms of counseling, the residents also participate in physical, recreational and cultural activities that help them learn to enjoy life without chemicals. A teacher from the local public school system addresses academic needs. They also offer a four-day program designed for parents, which is not limited to families of program residents.

After learning about the full range of services available through the Hazelden Center For Youth and Families, and speaking to the various service providers, I could understand how they had earned their fine reputation. It seemed to me that the type of intervention available here is an excellent way for the process of overcoming addiction to begin. Fortunately, they also address the importance of aftercare and ongoing support to maintain the abstinence that can be achieved in primary treatment and extended care.

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