JUNE 2016 Willingway Hospital in Statesboro, Georgia has recently been sold to a behavioral health conglomerate, which already operates other addiction treatment facilities from Georgia to Pennsylvania. Founded in 1971 by Doctor and Mrs. John Mooney, Willingway has been proudly billed as the first (and therefore the oldest) freestanding residential alcohol and drug addiction hospital in the State of Georgia. Sometimes its second generation Mooney owners have also referred to it as “the Betty Ford of the South.” It is the only residential alcohol and drug treatment facility in the Statesboro area with more than ten or fifteen patients at any one time, as well as the most prestigious such facility in the Southern areas of Georgia. Like its founder the hospital openly avows an orientation to treatment that expressly encourages and requires at least prominent attendance in AA meetings and a visible linkage with “AA sponsorship and working the 12 Steps of AA to recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol.”
For 45 years this institution has been a dominant factor in determining many issues affecting recovery opportunities for alcoholics in its vicinity. There has been the hospital itself, which has a 40 bed capacity that treated many local people, but also outpatient and long term residential programs controlled by Willingway and the Mooney family. These corporate and treatment spin-offs have frequently put as many as a hundred patients (or clients if you prefer) into the mix of those attending local meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. The Mooney family has also been instrumental in starting and maintaining a Drug Court program in the two largest counties within this judicial circuit; these programs require dozens more drug abusers to attend AA meetings daily, and the AA groups are expected by the referring court to be led in meetings by persons willing to verify attendance by Drug Court participants. Some staff members from these various programs also attend AA meetings, as do some members of the Mooney family. The only publicly funded treatment facility with medical support is John’s Place, named after John Mooney and visibly beholden to him for its AA oriented approach to drug and alcohol treatment.
In short Willingway Hospital, its programs, other professional treatment programs in the area, and the local groups of Alcoholics Anonymous have all been powerfully affected by Dr. Mooney and by the family that has remained loyal to his approach to treating alcoholism and drug addiction. As the new ownership of Willingway takes the helm, it should be conscious of the local heritage that local history has bequeathed to it.