The Carol and Ray Neag Medical Center is a new three-floor 47,000-square-foot building on the 150-acre campus with sweeping views of rolling hills and farms.
The light-filled building was designed by Olsen Design Group Architects of Reading and built by Benchmark Construction Co. of Lancaster.
The facility serves as Caron’s welcome and admissions center and expands its addiction medicine treatment and research programs.
The center is named after the Neags, philanthopists from Wyomissing who donated $5 million for the center. Ray Neag was one of the founders of Arrow International.
The expansion includes 29 beds, bringing the total to 270 beds at the facility. It includes 15 beds for detoxification and medical supervision and 14 private beds for its expanded older adults program. Fourteen more people were hired, largely in clinical and nursing positions.
As the nation grapples with an opioid addiction epidemic, substance abuse among adults over 60 is the fastest-growing segment, said Doug Tieman, president and CEO of Caron, a nonprofit substance abuse treatment center founded 60 years ago.
There are a number of reasons baby boomers are the fastest-growing segment among people suffering from substance abuse disorder with late onset, including the sheer size of the demographic.
The problem has been fueled in part by older adults being prescribed opioids after they undergo hip or joint replacement surgery for knees.
Until Caron created a program at its Florida centers, Tieman said “there were virtually no special programs for dealing with this population.”
When Caron replicated the program at its South Heidelberg campus beginning in 2015, it immediately filled its bed.
“We’ve had terrific success with it,” he said.
Older adults suffering from substance abuse have different needs and concerns, he said.
Tieman said older adults are often uncomfortable and intimidated being in a treatment environment where the average age of patients is 35 who were heroin users.
“They say, look, we don’t use bad words, we go to church on Sunday and we never bought anything illegally. We followed our doctor’s directions,” he said.
They often found the adult children trying to get their parents into treatment wanted a more local, easily accessible program, instead of putting their parents on a plane to get treatment at one of Caron’s programs for older adults in Florida.
The Caron center in South Heidelberg, also known as the Wernersville campus, is within a few hours’ drive for many of its patients who come from the mid-Atlantic region.
“We found, by and large, this population are modest drinkers, but later in life different types of medication really impacted their health and lifestyle,” Tieman said.
Some patients developed substance abuse problems after they were prescribed medications after knee replacement or shoulder surgery, or a spouse passed away and they were put on anti-anxiety medication because they couldn’t sleep at night.
“Most don’t metabolize alcohol or medications at 60 the same way they did at 40,” he said.
The new building will house Caron’s research center, which was scattered over some of the 30 buildings on the campus. Caron is a medical training center and does extensive work with the National Institutes of Health, Penn State Hershey and the University of Pennsylvania.
The Neag center also will house Caron’s chronic pain program, which includes dedicated space for physical therapy and hydrotherapy.
Caron has treatment and recovery centers in Pennsylvania, Florida, Washington, D.C., Georgia, New York and parts of New England.