Prominent addiction counselor Peter Hayden has retired

A prominent Minnesota addiction treatment counselor is retiring.

Peter Hayden is the founder of Turning Point in Minneapolis. His own recovery began 50 years ago after his return from the Vietnam war. He went on to earn a Ph.D. and became a pioneer in the field.

He will step down as founder and CEO of Turning Point at the end of the year to move into an ambassador role.

He reflected on his career and shared what’s next with All Things Considered host Tom Crann.

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To hear the full interview, click on the audio player above. The following transcription has been edited for length and clarity.

Take us back to your own recovery story. I understand this was after your service in the Vietnam War. What did you miss before in the treatment you received?

Turning Point is a culturally specific service center and that means we treat people according to their culture and not their color.

And what I lacked and what I did was, when I got treatment, I found that there were no people who looked like me or talked to me. [or] spoke like me or listened to the same music I did. So, for me, it was important that I found a way to not only help myself but to help others.

Tell me more about the specific cultural side of it.

I came out knowing I didn’t have enough of the treatment. The 12 steps of [Alcoholics Anonymous] is a great tool. However, when it comes to me and trying to understand who I am, what my life will be, I have to look at the cultural side.

The cultural part is that you and I have a chance to do some things if I can find out who you are. For example, if you listen to Motown music, that’s one way you and I can connect. Culture gives me and others the tools to connect where we can take the next step.

Have we gotten better over the years at providing treatment and recovery for people of color?

We have lifetime service, which has been good. But now we have to do it more because chemical health and addiction has changed over the years.

At one time, Ray Charles or many other colored people, they just took them to Kentucky and let them dry.

Now, we’re not taking you to Kentucky. What we do is we provide an environment that makes you feel like you can do it and that others are there to help you do it.

I want to talk about today’s situation with the opioid crisis and fentanyl. As you see it, is it different and does it require different methods or newer methods of treatment?

Fentanyl is nothing more than heroin, but now it has a new name and more people are affected by it.

In my case, when I was going through my life changes, I didn’t have a support system. Now, we have this support system and the dollars are starting to come out.

But I think it has to do with the dollars that come out: who’s making the decisions, how they’re making the decisions, and are we looking at the Turning Points, the Hazeldens who have been there a long time to say they’re doing a good job . Lets use that protocol that they have so we can do better.

After 50 years of doing this in your career, what do you wish we were doing better now or that you hope we’re doing better at this point?

I want to see more Turning Points. We are the largest provider of services to African Americans, people of color, women and children in the five-state area. It shouldn’t be like that.

I’m looking for more people who look like me. I’m looking for girls. I am looking for children to follow that path. So they understand that they can do it too.

And so that’s what I’m trying to do. And that is what I will do as I move into my next step as an ambassador for not only Turning Point but all treatment associations.

In an interview I recently read with Hazelden on the occasion of your 50 years of sobriety, you said, Recovery is not just a piece of me. This is my life, my lifestyle. Tell me more about that.

This is my life. My spiritual being is tied right there in my life. But because you have the opportunity to do something, there are some people who say, I will take it for myself, and I will make it bigger for myself, etc.

I choose to take my sobriety and share it. And that’s what I want to do. That is why I am comfortable in terms of leaving without leaving the Turning Point but moving to a different position.

We finally found the right person who can take over my office so I can continue to share. I am very lucky because I have been chosen by my higher power to lead this adventure.

As you step down as founder and CEO, what’s next for you? What do you want to see?

I want to see more people hear my voice. I’m African American and I don’t think they look at the positive side. They only look at the negative side. And so, I want people to feel more comfortable and give me and others like me a chance.

I can only tell you this: George Floyd is at the Turning Point. He did a good job. When he left, he did a good job. He went out of town, came back and those things started happening.

But I think sometimes people who look like me and other people feel like they have a knee on their neck. And if we can get that and not just do it for a year or two but make it a part of our lives, my life will not be in vain.

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