Betty Ford – The legacy of a true giver

Betty Ford Center Logo
Image via Wikipedia

Many people think that “The Betty” is a place where the rich and famous go when they’ve “abused” that wealth and fame and drugs and alcohol along the way.  In fact, the Betty Ford Clinic is a non-profit and has helped many people of all sorts.  Betty Ford was a pioneer and helped so many people in her lifetime.  Mrs Ford passed away last Friday but her legacy lives on.  I thought I would take this opportunity to fill you in on a true giver.  I gleaned much of this information from the www.bettyfordclinic.org site and some from Wikipedia.

The History and The Legacy:

Throughout her husband’s term in office, First Lady Betty Ford maintained high approval ratings despite opposition from some conservative Republicans who objected to her more moderate and liberal positions on social issues. Ford was noted for raising breast cancer awareness following her 1974 mastectomy and was a passionate supporter of, and activist for, the Equal Rights Amendment. Pro-choice on abortion and a leader in the Women’s Movement, she gained fame as one of the most candid first ladies in history, commenting on every hot-button issue of the time, including feminism, equal pay, ERA, sex, drugs, abortion, and gun control. She also raised awareness of addiction when she announced her long-running battle with alcoholism in the 1970s.

Following her White House years, she continued to lobby for the ERA and remained active in the feminist movement. She is the founder, and served as the first chairwoman of the board of directors, of the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse and addiction and is a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal (co-presentation with her husband, Gerald R. Ford, October 21, 1998) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (alone, presented 1991, by George H.W. Bush).

"Betty Ford"

Photo from Wikipedia

The Betty Ford Clinic

After completing her own treatment for chemical dependency at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Long Beach, former First Lady Betty Ford talked to her friends about the need for a treatment center that emphasized the special needs of women. Her good friend, Ambassador Leonard Firestone, encouraged Mrs. Ford to pursue her dream and in 1982, they co-founded the non-profit Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California.

Patients often affectionately refer to the Betty Ford Center as “Camp Betty.”  That would always bring a smile to Betty’s face.  At the Center, she was never Mrs. Ford.  She was Betty.  To reflect on Betty Ford is a daunting task. One of the principles she embraced was to never give up on an alcoholic or addict.  She not only promoted that principle but lived it.  After everything life threw at her, Betty never quit.

Betty created the Betty Ford Center as a unique place of healing.  Her quiet strength and determination allowed the Center to change the face of addiction treatment.  Not satisfied to be another “rehab,” she led the Center to become the first licensed Addiction Hospital in the world.

Betty spent time with patients on every visit to the Center.  Her interest was not administrative or clinical policies, but the welfare of every man or woman who had the courage to walk through our door.  She insisted from the first that Betty Ford Center have an intensive Family Program accessible to anyone who loves an alcoholic/addict.  An eleven year old girl from Los Angeles wrote Mrs. Ford and said, “My tummy hurts really bad whenever my mom is drinking.”  Betty and the Center that proudly bears her name established a unique Children’s Program that reaches out to children ages 7 -12 whose lives are dominated by addictive disease.

Betty was insistent that the Betty Ford Center would be accessible to women who are badly underserved in addiction treatment. She is extremely proud that 50% of the 97,000 men, women, and families who began their journey of recovery at BFC are women.  One of the primary objectives of our Family and Children’s programs is to assist participants to discover the resilience within them.  Resilience is a perfect word to describe the legacy of Betty Ford.

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