Celebrity Rehab in Berks County

Thursday, March 01, 2007

It seems every day we learn of yet another celebrity entering rehab. We might imagine those facilities are posh, plush and on some beautiful beach in California. But some of the biggest stars are getting help right here in our area.

Britney, Lindsay and Keith Urban, everyday, it seems, another star is checking in or out of rehab. Britney's ended up at one plush celebrity rehab center on Malibu's beautiful beach. But not all the celebrities go to get sober on sun-filled shores.

Wernersville, Pennsylvania, has a population of just 21-hundred; it is located 8 miles west of Reading, high on a hilltop. That's where you will find the Caron Foundation, Pennsylvania's rehab clinic for the rich and famous.

At an average cost of $24,000 dollars for a one-month stay, cash only, no insurance collected, it's considered the east coast's answer to Betty Ford. Liza Minnelli credits Caron with saving her life.

Minnelli said, "You can't do it by yourself and I was lucky enough to find the right people to help."

Aerosmith's Steven Tyler did a stint there and recently, Miss USA Tara Conner stayed a month after Donald Trump threatened to take away her crown for very bad behavior.

"You certainly see their highs and lows much more than the average American, however, the celebrities are still hitting that bottom, just as everyone else," said Michelle Staub of the Caron Foundation.

But recovery is different when everyone else knows your name.

"We work with them on anonymity. We work with them on the fact that they have an addiction just like everyone else does. And that addiction is an equal opportunity disease," Staub said.

21- year-old Carrie is not a celebrity, but she is a recovering heroin addict.

"The reality is it's hard. It's not a cakewalk. It's work," Carrie said.

She believes some stars give the wrong idea of what rehab is really like. Lindsay was rumored to have left rehab briefly to attend a party. That would never happen here.

"Being able to go out and do whatever you want to do and get pampered along the way, it does make it look like a country club, and it is so not like that at all. It's going to therapy everyday. It's going to see the psychiatrist. There was a certain time for showers, a certain time where you could have an hour of free time and write your letters," Carrie described.

In detox, without exception, patients get new medications to help them withdraw.

"I think they're really, really scared. I think they're so caught up in their drug use that they can't imagine what tomorrow would be like without that substance," said Priscilla Mekosh who is the director of Nursing at Caron.

Patients learn the 12-step program allowing for ready-made support in Alcoholics Anonymous after rehab. And anyone can quit Caron at any time.

"If they come to us and say I am leaving we're going to try and persuade them but we're not going to chain you to your chair and say no you're not gonna leave here."

There, Carrie's no different from Britney and a stay in rehab is just the start of a lifetime of recovery.

"You have a choice. You can either use the things you've learned here and change your life, but it's never going to go away," Carrie said.

Caron also offers 7 million dollars annually in financial assistance for those who can't afford the cost of treatment.

ON THE NET: Visit the Caron Foundation for Live Help online.

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