A well-known addiction treatment counselor in Minnesota is retiring.
Peter Hayden is the founder of Turning Point in Minneapolis. His own recovery began 50 years ago after returning from the Vietnam War. He has a Ph.D. Received. And became a pioneer in this field.
He will step down as Founder and CEO of Turning Point at the end of the year to transition to the ambassador role.
He reflected on his career and shared what’s next with All Things Considered host Tom Crain.
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Click on the audio player above to listen to the full interview. The following transcription has been edited for length and clarity.
Take us back to your recovery story. I understand this was after your service in the Vietnam War. What was lacking for you in the treatment you received then?
Turning Point is a culturally specific service center and this means that we treat people based on their culture, not their color.
And what was missing for me and what I did is that when I went to treatment, I discovered that there were no people who looked like me or talked like me [or] Talked like me or listened to the same music I listened to. So, for me, it was important that I find a way to not only help myself but to help others.
Tell me more about this culturally specific piece.
I came out knowing that I did not have enough money for treatment. 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 side is that if I can find out who you are then you and I have a chance to do some things. For example, if you listen to Motown music, that’s a way you and I can connect. Culture provides me and others with the tools to connect where we can take the next step.
Have we gotten better at providing treatment and health benefits to people of color over the years?
We have served all our lives, which has been good. But now we have to take it a step further as chemical health and addiction have changed over the years.
At one time, Ray Charles or many other people of color, they just took them to Kentucky and left them out to dry.
We’re not taking you to Kentucky today. What we do is we provide an environment that makes you feel like you can do it and other people are there to help you do it.
I want to talk about the opioid crisis and the state of fentanyl today. As you see it, is it different and does it require different approaches or new approaches to treatment?
Fentanyl is nothing but heroin, but now it has a new name and more people are affected by it.
In my case, when I was going through changes in my life, I did not have a support system. Now, we have this support system and the dollars are starting to come out.
But I think in terms of the dollars coming out: who is making the decisions, how are they making the decisions, and are we seeing tipping points, the Hazeldens have been saying for a long time that they’re doing a good job. Are. Let’s use the protocols that they have so we can do even better.
After 50 years of doing this in your career, what do you wish we did better today or that you hoped we would do better at this point?
I’d like to see more turning points. We are the largest provider of services to African-Americans, people of color, women and children in a five-state region. It should not happen.
I’m looking for more people who look like me. I am looking for women. I want to take my children on that path. So they understand that they can do it too.
And so that’s what I’m trying to do. And that’s what I’m going to do as I move forward into my next step as an ambassador for not only Turning Point but all treatment associations.
In a recent interview I read with Hazelden on the occasion of your 50 years of sobriety, you said, Recovery is not just a part of me. This is my life, my lifestyle. Tell me more about that.
This is my life. My spiritual existence is connected with my life there. But because you have the opportunity to do something, there are some people who say, I’ll take it for myself, and I’ll make it bigger for myself, etc.
I choose to take my sobriety and share it. And that’s what I want to do. This is why I feel comfortable with moving to a different state rather than leaving Turning Point.
We finally found the right person to take over my office so I could continue sharing. I am very fortunate in that I have been chosen by my Higher Power to lead this venture.
What’s next for you as you step down as Founder and CEO? What do you want to see?
I would love to see more people hear my voice. I’m African American and I think they don’t see the positive side. They only see the negative side. And so, I would like people to feel more comfortable and give me and other people who look like me opportunities.
All I can tell you is this: George Floyd was the turning point. He performed well. When he left, he performed well. 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 there’s a knee on their neck. And if we can achieve this and not just do it for a year or two but make it a part of our life, then my life will not be in vain.
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