The Lackland-Long Beach Model

William E. Swegan and Dr. Louis Jolyon West
set up their AA-based alcoholism treatment program
at Lackland Air Force Base



The Alamo in San Antonio

When Sgt. Bill arrived in San Antonio, Texas, in 1953, he was given the title of "psychiatric social worker" to enable him to work full time with alcoholics at Lackland Air Force Base. He teamed up with a young psychiatrist, Dr. Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West, to set up an alcoholism treatment program at the base hospital (the largest Air Force hospital in the world) which achieved an astounding fifty percent success rate in rehabilitating alcoholics and returning them to active duty.

Dr. Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West (c. 1960)

In 1956 he co-authored with Dr. West a detailed account of the way in which a combination of good A.A. (and attendance at civilian A.A. meetings off base) with good psychiatric principles could take hopeless alcoholics and turn their lives around. It was titled "An Approach to Alcoholism in the Military Service," and appeared first in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Marty Mann then began reprinting the article and distributing it all over the United States through the National Council on Alcoholism.

The River Walk along the San Antonio river
as it winds its way through the city

Dr. West eventually went to UCLA in Los Angeles, California, where he became Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences; Psychiatrist-in-Chief at the UCLA Hospital and Clinics; and Director of the Neuropsychiatric Institute at the UCLA Center for the Health Sciences.

Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West, M.D.
Portrait of him hanging at UCLA in honor
of his contributions to the university

Jolly West's portrait still hangs at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). He is regarded as the man who singlehandedly took their fledgling psychiatric program and turned it into one of the world's leading psychiatric centers. In spite of his enormous administrative and teaching responsibilities there, his colleagues marveled that he still took the time to see individual patients on a regular basis. Sgt. Bill says, simply, "Dr. West wasn't just a skull jockey. He was a warm, caring human being."

More on the Lackland-Long Beach Model

In the Spring, the fields around San Antonio are filled
with masses of bluebonnets everywhere you look

Sgt. Bill started his first alcoholism treatment program at Mitchel Air Force Base on Long Island in 1948, and further improved his system when he began the Lackland program in 1953 at San Antonio, Texas. By 1956 it was clear that the Lackland Model, with its demonstrated fifty percent success rate, was one of the most successful approaches to treating alcoholics ever developed.

There were other attempts going on in the United States during that period to use A.A. in the context of an organized treatment facility. For example, the Hazelden Foundation began operating in a farmhouse on a Minnesota farm in 1949, with around five to seven patients at any one time during the earliest period. When they faced foreclosure on their mortgage in 1951, the Butler family purchased it, and Patrick Butler (who had himself been treated there) became a leader in running the Hazelden program during the years that followed.

Hazelden in 1955, still basically just a large farmhouse on a Minnesota farm
(Sgt. Bill started his Lackland program in 1953; in 1954 Hazelden took over the task
of publishing Richmond Walker's Twenty-Four Hours a Day, first pub. 1948)

All the major elements of what is called "the Minnesota model" for treating alcoholism did not begin to fall into place until 1954, when Nelson Bradley, Fred E., and Mel B. launched a new approach to alcoholism treatment at Willmar State Hospital in Minnesota. Patrick Butler then began applying the Willmar method at Hazelden during the 1960's.

In 1966, Lynn C., who had continued to insist that Hazelden's treatment regimen remain "pure A.A.," finally left the center, and the mental health professionals came to strongly dominate Hazelden. The philosophy became one of treating "chemical dependency" using many different disciplines and treatment modalities.

In 1965, Commander Richard Jewell, who had gotten sober in A.A., talked psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Zuska into starting an alcoholism treatment program at Long Beach Naval Station, working on the same basic principles as the program Sgt. Bill and Dr. Louis Jolyon West had set up at Lackland, that is, setting up a system in which A.A. people had a strong say in how the program was run, and were in continuous contact with the patients.

The Long Beach treatment center became very famous during the years that followed, because of its extremely high success rate. Later on, Betty Ford (wife of President Gerald Ford) and Billy Carter (brother of President Jimmy Carter) were sent to Long Beach to get sober.

Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West as a young combat infantryman
in the European theater during the Second World War.

When he obtained his M.D. after the war, he went into
psychiatry, and teamed up with Sgt. Bill S. to create the highly
successful Lackland Model of alcoholism treatment.

Sgt. Bill, in his travels around the country speaking at conferences and workshops, is now however the principle spokesman for the approach to alcoholism treatment in which "pure A.A." is linked to professional medical and psychiatric help when necessary, but with the A.A. personnel fundamentally in charge of the program, and deeply involved in daily work with the individual patients.

Sgt. Bill points out that the extremely high success rates -- in his treatment programs, in Sister Ignatia's alcoholism ward at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, and at Long Beach Naval Station beginning in the 1960's -- demonstate the superiority of this kind of approach.

In the latter part of Sgt. Bill's book, he gives a detailed account of the practical methods and the philosophy of treatment which he and Dr. West developed at Lackland in San Antonio, Texas during the early 1950's. The Lackland Model remains to this day as one of the most successful methods for treating alcoholics which has been devised over the past sixty years.

Shops and restaurants along the River Walk in San Antonio