The University of Utah School on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies began its 37th annual session Monday by honoring former First Lady Betty Ford for her support of the prevention and treatment of alcohol and drug problems.

Ford was awarded the Ewart A. Swinyard Award, named for the school's first director. Swinyard attended the opening ceremony to present the award, which was accepted by John T. Schwarzlose, executive director and vice president of the Betty Ford Center. Ford was unable to attend the ceremony.Swinyard told the audience that alcohol and drugs are widely abused and addicting. "A number of leaders recognize this and have the courage to do something about it - to reach out and make a difference to men and women." He said Ford is one of those leaders.

Ford established the Betty Ford Center, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Palm Springs, Calif., in 1982 after receiving treatment at a naval hospital for her dependency on prescription drugs and alcohol.

It was at the hospital that Ford realized there is a tremendous need for specialized alcohol and drug treatment centers, especially for women. Ford had to adapt to the hospital's male programs because there were no programs designed specifically for women.

"She feels women are not in a position to fit into a male-oriented environment. She said if the Betty Ford Center ever became 100 percent women, she wouldn't mind," Schwarzlose said during an interview.

He said Ford recently celebrated 10 years of being drug-free and takes her sobriety very seriously." The treatment center is a major part of her life."

Schwarzlose said people often enroll in drug and rehabilitation centers to relax. "But the Betty Ford Center is a no-nonsense, intensive approach to a very serious illness." The center has restricted visiting hours, one pay telephone and one television for every 20 patients.

"The reputation of the center is that it's for the rich and famous, but that is not true. We've had some well-known celebrities, but they make up less than 0.1 percent of the center." He added that the cost of treatment is about $6,000, much less than most centers.

Schwarzlose said a major portion of the center's curriculum centers around peer interaction. "When you interact with men and women that have the same problem you do, you find you're not alone." The center also has counselors, physicians, nurses, psychologists and pastoral counselors.

During the ceremony, Schwarzlose said Ford was honored to receive an award from a school that is, "without a doubt, regarded as the number one school in this field."