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Wolf Administration Visits Caron Treatment Center for Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week

Wernersville, PA - Department of Aging and Health officials today visited the Caron Treatment Center as part of the second Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week, a statewide initiative to get the overdose reversal medication naloxone to Pennsylvanians and get help for residents suffering from the disease of opioid-use disorder.

Department of Aging Secretary Robert Torres and Department of Health Deputy Secretary of Health Preparedness and Community Protection Ray Barishansky toured the center’s Carole & Ray Neag Medical Center to learn more about its approach to treating addiction and to discuss Governor Tom Wolf’s statewide opioid disaster declaration. Afterward, Sec. Torres and Deputy Sec. Barishansky met with members of Caron’s medical services team to discuss future initiatives.

“Caron provides specialized programs for people suffering from substance use disorder, including enhanced treatment capabilities for older adults specifically,” said Sec. Torres. “Recovery is possible at any age. Knowing that substance use disorder continues to grow in the senior population makes today’s visit an extremely valuable opportunity to get deeper insight into how treatment centers are helping older adults who are suffering and working with their families to support their recovery process.”

Addiction in older adults is one of America’s fastest growing health issues. Today, 2.5 million older adults have an alcohol or drug problem. Widowers over the age of 75 have the highest rate of alcoholism in the U.S., and older adults are hospitalized as often for alcohol-related problems as they are for heart attacks. Nevertheless, addiction in older adults can be difficult to detect, as many are isolated from family and friends, and warning signs can mimic insomnia, forgetfulness, and other common age-related health issues.

“Substance use disorder does not discriminate and can occur at any age. For older adults, who often are taking multiple medications, the risk of negative consequences related to substances, including prescribed medications, is significant,” said Dr. Dean Drosnes, FASAM, Associate Medical Director and Director of Chronic Pain programming at Caron. “We believe it’s critical to educate public health and aging officials about addiction. Families struggling with these issues need to know that they’re not alone and that there are quality resources available to support them.”

Caron, a not-for-profit provider of addiction and behavioral healthcare treatment with 60 years in the field, provides each patient with a multidisciplinary treatment team of professionals, and incorporates the patient’s family into the treatment process to ensure that a customized treatment plan is well-tailored to their needs. The older adult program provides a full range of psychological, psychiatric, and medical services in a compassionate way that supports each individual’s transformation to a healthy and productive life.

“The opioid crisis does not discriminate and continues to take too many lives, including those of older Pennsylvanians,” said Deputy Secretary Ray Barishansky. “We remain laser-focused and committed to addressing substance use disorder in the commonwealth. One of our many efforts includes the naloxone distribution days, to provide the life-saving drug to thousands of Pennsylvanians because treatment works, recovery is possible, and everyone deserves a second chance at life.”

In celebrating National Recovery Month, Pennsylvania is hosting Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week, where residents will be able to go to a state health center or their local pharmacy to get the overdose reversal medication naloxone. This medication reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and gives the patient a chance at recovery.

“We cannot get someone into treatment if they are dead,” Governor Wolf said. “Naloxone saves lives and we should all carry it because you never know when you will get the chance to help someone. Last year, we distributed over 7,000 kits of free naloxone during our first Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week. This year, we hope to get this life-saving tool into the hands of even more Pennsylvanians.”

Tomorrow, the administration will hold its second naloxone distribution day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., as supplies last. Some locations will operate at different hours, so the Department of Health has developed a map to highlight participating locations and their availability. In addition to being able to get naloxone for free on distribution days, it is carried at most pharmacies across the state year-round. Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine issued a standing order prescription to any Pennsylvanian to get naloxone at a pharmacy for anyone who may need it. Naloxone is available to many with public and private insurance at pharmacies either for free or at a low cost.

The Opioid Command Center, established in January 2018 when Gov. Wolf signed the first opioid disaster declaration, meets every week to discuss the opioid crisis. The command center is staffed by personnel from 17 state agencies, spearheaded by the departments of Health and Drug and Alcohol Programs. Work to address the opioid crisis focuses on three areas: prevention, rescue and treatment. Efforts over the past four years, working with state agencies, local, regional and federal officials, have resulted in significant action to address the opioid crisis. Recent efforts include:

  • The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program has reduced opioid prescriptions by 27 percent and has virtually eliminated doctor shopping.
  • The Opioid Data Dashboard and Data Dashboard 2.0 is providing public-facing data regarding prevention, rescue and treatment.
  • The waiver of birth certificate fees for those with opioid use disorder has helped close to 2,500 people, enabling easier entry into recovery programs.
  • A standing order signed by Dr. Rachel Levine in 2018 allowed EMS to leave behind nearly 1,100 doses of naloxone.
  • More than 6,000 health care professionals have been visited and provided training on how to prescribe opioids cautiously and judiciously.
  • 813 drug take-back boxes help Pennsylvanians properly dispose of unwanted drugs, including 482,000 pounds of unwanted drugs in 2018.
  • The Get Help Now Hotline received more than 25,000 calls, with nearly half of all callers connected directly to a treatment provider.
  • The state prison system has expanded their Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program, which is viewed as a model program for other states.
  • More than 100 licensed physicians or prescribers have been disciplined for wrongful practice over the past two years.
  • Several agencies have worked together to collaborate on the seizure and destruction of illicit opioids across Pennsylvania.
  • The coordination with seven major commercial providers has expanded access to naloxone and mental health care, while also working to make it more affordable.
  • Naloxone has been made available to first responders through the Commission on Crime and Delinquency, with more than 25,000 doses made available and more than 4,500 saves through that program. In addition, EMS have administered more than 25,000 doses of naloxone and more than 7,000 doses were made available to members of the public during the state’s naloxone distribution last year.

Learn more about Caron Treatment Centers here.

For more information on Pennsylvania’s response to the opioid crisis visit

MEDIA CONTACT: Nate Wardle - 717-787-1783 or

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