By The Fix staff 03/26/11

This mammoth Minnesota drug rehab has become a dominant recovery brand and deals with 2,000 clients each year. So, how much does size matter?

SIZED HR Hazelden.jpeg
Hazelden's adult campus in Minnesota. Photo via
Location : Center City, Minn.
Phone : (800) 257-7810
Price : $28,300
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
Food :
Insurance : Yes
Detox : Yes

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Now the mothership of a nationwide fleet of rehabs, Hazelden’s Center City headquarters started off in 1949 as a men-only program in a simple Minnesota farmhouse. 60 years later, the Hazelden rehab maintains its focus on the 12 steps, but now serves some 2000 addicts every year, with affiliate campuses in Chicago, Florida, Oregon and New York as well as publishing, education and advocacy operations—not to mention a brand that’s recognized as an industry leader.

Like most things in the Midwest, the place is huge, with a complex of buildings “that look like they were erected in 1976, or something,” situated in no fewer than 500 wooded acres next to a lake some 50 miles north of St. Paul. “It’s like a big 10 campus,” explains one alum, “though without the frat parties and football—unless you count the occasional games of touch football played badly by doughy alcoholics.” 
When it’s warm outside, Hazelden treatment center clients enjoy the natural beauty of their surroundings, but winter in Minnesota is a season best avoided.

Food is described as “pure Midwestern hearty fare,” such as pork chops and spaghetti, which some clients praise as “amazing” and others dismiss as “average.” Regardless of how much it’s appreciated, it certainly gets eaten. “I put on 15 pounds in 20 days,” admits one grad. “Maybe they were trying to fatten us up for the winter,” speculates another.
While accommodations at the Hazelden treatment center are hardly the height of luxury, there are few complaints about the clean modern rooms which resemble those at a “decent budget hotel” (private rooms are available under special circumstances). And the place is packed with amenities, such as a swimming pool, fitness center, cafe, store, lounge areas, meditation room and lecture hall.
Hazelden’s vaunted treatment plan, known for being straightforward and no-nonsense, doesn’t feature a lot of esoteric extras. The “very structured” days include meditation, counseling, yoga, lectures and evening speakers. Although individual psychiatric and spiritual counseling are available, a group ethos is strongly emphasized. “They didn’t want you socializing with people outside your unit of 20 or so,” recalls one veteran, adding that this might have been a way of stopping individuals from feeling swamped among so many other patients. The professionalism of the “supportive” staff is often praised, as is their willingness to “lend an ear,” although one alum laments, “There are so many people there, it’s hard not to feel lost sometimes. I wanted to feel a little more loved.” 

Rules are stiff, but not over-the-top. Talking to members of the opposite sex isn’t allowed, “but they’d warn you in a respectful way,” explains one ex-client. Of course, ‘’they” can be pushed too far—as one woman who “disappeared to meet her boyfriend in the woods” discovered when she was unceremoniously kicked out. Missing a seminar brings “a black mark against your name,” while “low-cut or immodest” clothing is prohibited.

Hazelden rehab clients are almost all white and young-to-middle aged. There’s also heavy blue-collar representation among the expected wealthier types. “You’ll do well here if you’re a cop, a fireman or a union guy—not so much if you’re some socialite,” reports an insider. But has the pursuit of world domination compromised quality at Hazelden’s main facility? Opinions among so many alumni will never be unanimous: “Push ‘em in, get ‘em out, that’s their attitude,” claims one, while another regards his “fantastic” experience as “worth every penny.” Ultimately, it may be described as “not hip and not cool” and may not be very forward-thinking either, but the bulk of its graduates testify to its worth—and in the recovery business, numbers count.

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