Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Names Behavioral Health Vet Paul Mueller Its Next COO

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, one of the largest nonprofit addiction treatment systems in the nation, has tapped Paul Mueller as its next chief operating officer.

Mueller comes to Hazelden Betty Ford with 30 years of experience in the behavioral health sector. Most recently, he served as the CEO at Rogers Behavioral Health, a psychiatric hospital in Wisconsin.

In this new role, Mueller is tasked with accelerating the organization’s growth in the mental health space, as well as addiction treatment and family services.


A trained social worker, Mueller got his start in direct patient care before changing gears into management.

“The last several years in my career, I’ve been … working with clinicians to really study and document, ‘What are the best ways to provide the services that we offer,’” Mueller told Behavioral Health Business. “And to do it in a way that is standard.”

Moving forward with Hazelden Betty Ford, Mueller said he will be focusing on addressing the unmet needs within the system. He will then work with the clinical staff to implement an operating system to contribute to overall effectiveness.


“[We’re] trying to facilitate an environment that continuously challenges ourselves to ask if what we’re doing is the best possible way to do this – and could we be better,” Mueller said.

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation was founded in 2014 with the merger of the Hazelden Foundation and the Betty Ford Center. Headquartered in Center City, Minnesota, the addiction and mental health provider currently has 17 treatment centers. Its programs are in-network with the bulk of larger payers, but are not covered under Medicare or Medicaid.

The future of addiction care

The addiction field isn’t without its challenges. Mueller said staffing and funding issues continue to plague the industry. 

“In general, one might characterize the mental health and addiction field as underfunded and underserved,” Mueller said. “We’re facing some of the challenges that the rest of our community is facing, which is an increased [and] overwhelming need, combined with limited resources from a clinical standpoint, to provide the services. The big challenge that everyone is facing right now is trying to find the adequate number of staff to effectively organize our programs and services to meet the needs that we’re experiencing.”

Mueller noted the growing need for addiction treatment services coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Overdose deaths increased by 30% from 2019 to 2020, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This crisis is coupled with a major staffing shortage in the behavioral health sector.

Despite the challenges coming out of the pandemic, there have also been technological advances that could aid care in the future. Mueller said the pandemic led to an increase in the number of digital and portable services the organization offers.

But he warns research is essential to implementing new programs.

“Anything new needs to be studied. So one of the things that we did here at Hazelden was study the outcomes in a virtual platform for the levels of care that we were offering and if they were favorable,” Mueller said. “The good news is it is working.”

Like many providers, Hazelden Betty Ford is looking to value-based care for the future. Mueller noted that the provider has already done some value-based contracting. Yet, there are still barriers to implementing this type of service in the future.

“The challenge is to get a unified definition of what that value is,” Mueller said. “Will someone define value as simply no longer using substances, or will someone define value as a quality of life measure? And that’s where that dialogue is with our payers.”

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