John Curtiss, president and CEO, The Retreat

John Curtiss, president of Wayzata-based chemical dependency program The Retreat, said the nonprofit this year is offering at least $260,000 in scholarships to serve additional individuals and families.

Affordable care is central to The Retreat's peer-to-peer recovery program and at $4,900 its 30-day residential program is "well below the cost of anything else out there," Curtiss said. Other residential programs typically cost $30,000 to $50,000, according to The Retreat.

Partial scholarships have been part of The Retreat's model since Curtiss wrote its business plan and helped launch the program in 1998.

"I could see that $30,000 for a 30-day stay in treatment was not going to help the masses of people out there that really needed the help," Curtiss said. "We needed to come up with another approach that was more affordable, accessible and effective."

The Retreat, which began operations with 19 beds, now has 157 in Wayzata and St. Paul, with 82 employees and more than 400 volunteers delivering a recovery program based on the Twelve Step principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. Curtiss has written business plans and worked with professionals elsewhere to help open locations in other states and countries.

Curtiss, a state-licensed counselor and nationally certified recovery specialist, gained extensive clinical experience and developed business acumen in his 19 years as a counselor and vice president and executive director at what is now the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. He has a master's degree in health care administration from St. Mary's University of Minnesota.

Q: Why should someone consider The Retreat for chemical dependency care?

A: The Retreat has proven to be a very effective approach to helping people recover, that is affordable. We have proven to the world that you can help someone access recovery without breaking the family bank to get there.

Q: What is the key to The Retreat's affordability?

A: (The business plan) was lean and mean. We created this community-based model where the deliverers of the curriculum were volunteers who were long-term recovered individuals in the community. The use of our volunteer pool helps to keep the cost down for the model.

Q: What got you into health care administration?

A: I've always been drawn to systems and creating communities, which ultimately became my role at Hazelden, helping to create Hazeldens in other parts of the country. I'm one of these odd fellows who likes writing business plans and likes organizing the structures around how to create a business that works.

Todd Nelson