RIP First Lady Betty Ford, Creator Of The First ‘Celebrity Rehab’

Former First Lady Betty Ford has died at the age of 93. Although she obviously made her mark as First Lady, her openness about her health issues made a significant impact well beyond the years of her husband’s presidency. One month after moving into the White House in 1974, Betty Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent a mastectomy. Contrary to the popular taboo of talking about cancer in pubic, Ford spoke openly about her disease, and became an advocate for research and early detection.

After she left the White House, she admitted that she was addicted to alcohol and prescription pain medications. In 1982 she co-founded the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, CA . It was the first licensed addiction hospital in the world. The center was revolutionary in the way we viewed and treated substance abuse.  As Mrs. Ford said:

This is not a lack of willpower, this is a disease.

The Center became a place where not only the rich and famous, but over 92,000 patients and their families have come to work on their addictions.

Of course, the Betty Ford Clinic is probably best known because of the many celebrities who have spent time there, including:

Elizabeth Taylor– She had been there twice, and met her last husband, Larry Fortensky,  there.

Rock legends Stevie Nicks (cocaine) and Ozzy Osbourne (alcohol and drug abuse)

Frazier star, Kelsey Grammar, credited his stay there with saving his life. He even testified before Congress about the Center, saying: “It takes a sense of community and faith to actually overcome this disease.”

Academy-award winning actress, Dancing with the Stars contestant, and Celebrity Apprentice finalist, Marlee Matlin, tweeted: “She [Betty Ford} & Betty Ford Center helped me beat my addiction & she was an angel to many.”

One Day at a Time star McKenzie Phillips wrote on the tribute page of the Betty Ford Center: “RIP Betty Ford. A pioneer in treatment of addicts. We owe Mrs. Ford our gratitude and prayers. And love. She was one classy woman.”

Singer/Songwriter Johnny Cash became a patient at the Center in 1986. He had broken five ribs and began to abuse painkillers. Cash told The Associated Press: “I ended up in the Betty Ford Center for 43 days… I’ve had no drugs since then. It has been the best three years of my life, the most productive and the happiest.”

Lindsay Lohan checked into the Betty Ford Center in October 2010. It was there where she was involved in a scuffle with a hospital employee who was fired afterwards.


Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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