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North Dakota First Lady to Deliver Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School Commencement Address

School’s first in-person ceremony since 2019 comes amid urgent need for more addiction, mental health counselors

ST. PAUL, Minn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–North Dakota First Lady Kathryn Burgum, whose recovery from addiction has fueled a personal and public-service mission to end the stigma and shame associated with the disease, will deliver the 23rd Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies commencement address on April 22.

“We are honored that First Lady Burgum will join us to celebrate the accomplishments of our scholars and share her encouragement and inspiration as they head into the challenging and rewarding world of health care,” said Kevin Doyle, EdD, president and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School, which is part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the nation’s leading nonprofit system of addiction and mental health care, recovery resources, and related education, prevention, research and advocacy.

“No one is doing more right now than First Lady Burgum to end stigma and address the crucial need to treat addiction like the disease it is,” Dr. Doyle added. “By sharing her story and inspiring thousands of others to do the same, she is advancing the legacy of our school’s namesake—former U.S. First Lady Betty Ford—and making it easier for people to seek the lifesaving help our graduates provide. We couldn’t be more grateful for her advocacy or her support of our students.”

The invitation-only commencement—the school’s first in-person ceremony since 2019—will be held at Hamline University in St. Paul due to pandemic-related patient-safety protocols currently limiting visitation to the campus that the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School shares with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s health care facility in Center City, Minn.

Almost 80 new graduates will be recognized for earning master’s degrees in “Addiction Counseling: Integrated Recovery for Co-occurring Disorders” and “Addiction Counseling: Advanced Practice”—enabling them to provide integrated, comprehensive addiction and mental health care consistent with best practices. Many more who were recognized during previous commencements held virtually due to the pandemic have been invited to “walk” in-person as well. Most will establish careers in counseling or a related area of the addiction treatment and recovery field. Due in part to the opioid overdose epidemic and broader addiction crisis—along with rising mental health and suicide concerns exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic—demand for counselors in the behavioral health industry is projected to grow 25% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.1

“We are excited to recognize and honor our graduates in-person again as they go out into the world to help individuals, families and communities overcome substance use and mental health conditions amid urgent, escalating needs,” Dr. Doyle said. “Big thanks to our gracious and hospitable friends at Hamline for helping make it possible.”

Burgum, now in her sixth year as North Dakota’s First Lady, has focused her public life on supporting and developing initiatives to eliminate the shame and stigma of the chronic disease of addiction. In sustained recovery for 19 years, she frequently shares her personal experience and encourages others to do the same to normalize the conversation. By spreading the word—from North Dakota to the White House and beyond—that addiction is a chronic disease and not a character flaw, the First Lady encourages shame-free help-seeking and stigma-free public policies and professional practices. Her Recovery Reinvented platform is seen by many as a state and national model for uniting communities to eliminate the shame and stigma of addiction and advance proven prevention, treatment and recovery approaches.

Burgum joins other notable Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School commencement speakers, including the late New York Times columnist David Carr; news anchor Laurie Dhue; Recovery Research Institute founder Dr. John Kelly; Robert DuPont, MD, the first director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse; and Michael Botticelli, the first person in recovery to lead the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“It is a tremendous privilege to speak to this distinguished group of Hazelden Betty Ford graduate students and help honor their hard work, sacrifice and love for the people and families they will serve for years to come,” said Burgum, who also is a member of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s Board of Trustees. “Hazelden Betty Ford’s graduates are a force of healing and hope wherever they go, taking with them knowledge, expertise and a recovery-oriented spirit that our communities need now more than ever.”

Launched in 1963 to develop a new generation of addiction treatment professionals, the Hazelden Chemical Dependency Counselor Training Program—as it was originally known—evolved into the Graduate School of Addiction Studies in 1999 when it admitted its first master’s students. As the longest continuous, accredited provider of substance use counselor training in the United States, the school has educated students from 47 states, two U.S. territories, the District of Columbia and 44 countries, including Japan, Iceland, Norway, Canada, Great Britain and Bermuda; and continues to propel standards for the field.

With both onsite and distance-learning options, the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School typically enrolls more than 200 students each year in its two addiction counseling programs. Graduates taking licensing and certification examinations have a 99.5% exam pass rate, and 92% of graduates are successfully employed within six months of graduation.2

For those interested in learning more about the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies, the school offers regular open houses and events.


“Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 1, 2020.



99.5% exam pass rate is based on 413/415 survey responses between 2004-2020. 92% of graduates successfully employed within six months based on 469/509 survey responses between 2002-2020.

About the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As the nation’s leading nonprofit provider of comprehensive inpatient and outpatient addiction and mental health care for adults and youth, the Foundation has treatment centers and telehealth services nationwide as well as a network of collaborators throughout health care. With a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center, the Foundation today also encompasses a graduate school of addiction studies, a publishing division, an addiction research center, recovery advocacy and thought leadership, professional and medical education programs, school-based prevention resources and a specialized program for children who grow up in families with addiction. Learn more at HazeldenBettyFord.org and on Twitter.


Samantha Moy-Gottfried, 651-213-4728, smoy-gottfried@hazeldenbettyford.org


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