Hazelden Center for Youth and Families

Hazelden Center for Youth and Families

By The Fix staff 03/24/11

Cold weather and half-caf coffee help curb the crisis-stricken clients at Hazelden's youth branch. Sympathetic staff and family involvement often ensure that the kids are alright.

Hazelden's kids' rehab. Photo via
Location : Plymouth, Minn.
Phone : (800) 257-7810
Price : $28,000
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
Food :
Insurance : Yes
Detox : Yes
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Nestled on the shore of Minnesota’s aptly named Medicine Lake, a few miles from Minneapolis, Hazelden Center for Youth and Families (HCYF) is the world's leading rehab for addicts and alcoholics between the ages of 15 and 25. Surrounded by miles of trees and festive foliage, it’s quite a pleasant place—at least for six months of the year. (From November, when temperatures plummet below 10 degrees, not so much.)

Accommodations at Hazelden Center for Youth and Families are decent but not flashy—a typical room houses four beds, four closets, and a tiny toilet.  One former client describes the atmosphere as “very collegiate”—like a frat house without the kegs—although a tireless team of housekeepers works hard to keep the premises pristine. For the most part, residents consist of "suburban white kids who dress and sound like Eminem,” says one alum.

Because Hazelden Center for Youth and Families is a treatment center for young people, it’s safe to say that nearly all of the clients are there because they’ve recently suffered a crisis—a car accident, an arrest or a trip to the hospital. As a result, stitches and crutches are fairly common. While many of the teens reluctantly enroll in the facility "to shut their parents up," others take the process more seriously (especially if they’re on their second visit). Family participation is strongly encouraged, though reconciliations can produce unforeseen results. "Ever since they taught my parents the word 'enabling,’ my life has fallen apart!" laments one resident.

Reviews of the food vary from “very good” to "unspectacular”; the general consensus is somewhere in between. “I gained 25 pounds while I was there,” says one alumnus: “There were lots of options, hot and fresh.” Clients also get a tantalizingly titled “tray of treats” after dinner.

Unlike those rehabs that enforce a strict no-caffeine policy, HCYF has negotiated a compromise. “The coffee is half-caf," claims one alumnus. “They water it down with this decaf shit.” But early birds catch the worm: “They brew a pot of the real stuff first thing in the morning, so if you get to breakfast really early, you can score some real caffeine.” Smoking is strictly restricted to a small outdoor patio—a minor inconvenience, unless it’s winter, in which case "your lungs freeze over with every puff.”

Like its older sisters, Halzelden Jr. takes its mission very seriously. The counselors, mostly in recovery themselves, are “real enthusiastic and do a good job of adjusting to very different people,” reports one grad. Treatment follows a 12-step program heavy on both group work and one-on-one counseling.

As befits its youthful clientele, Hazelden Center for Youth and Families has a well-deserved reputation for strictness, and transgressors are quickly punished for breaking any rules. “If one person screwed up, we’d all lose privileges,” recalls a former patient. “If you don’t make your bed exactly right in the morning, they force you to do it over and over again.” At the same time, she says, the staff was friendly and generous and clients are regularly transported to a local gym, bowling alley and movie theater. But back on campus, boys and girls aren’t allowed to “talk or look at each other,” recalls one former resident ruefully. “We couldn’t even say hi.” Cell phones, IPods and  non-recovery books are banished from the premises. Anti-addiction drugs such as Antabuse and Suboxone are also strictly forbidden. .

Despite a hefty monthly cost, Hazelden is not a luxury rehab. It caters to an overwhelmingly white population. “I don’t remember a brown or black person in the place,” says one longtime resident. “But I saw a lot of people turning blue."

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