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Governor Wolf Visits Grandparents and their Grandchildren Whose Parents Have Been Affected by the Opioid Crisis

December 21, 2017

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Wolf was at Highmark Caring Place in Lemoyne, Cumberland County, to visit with grandparents and hear of their experiences raising grandchildren whose parents have been affected by the opioid crisis.

“We need to work together to reach real solutions to this complex and damaging problem,” Governor Wolf said. “Make no mistake about it – we are in a fight, and these families are the victims of a disease. I pledge to continue to focus our energies and resources on stopping this crisis because we can no longer allow our neighborhoods, our communities, and our families to lose their loved ones to this disease.”

Grandparents from Carlisle, Harrisburg, Middletown and New Kingston shared how they not only lost their child, but are now raising children once again. Governor Wolf was joined by Acting Health Secretary and Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine; Aging Secretary Teresa Osborne; Acting Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jennifer Smith; and Acting Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller to hear first-hand how the commonwealth can support these families.

“Opioid addiction is a disease, it is not a moral failing,” Dr. Levine said. “It’s imperative that every grandparent know that they did not fail their child or their grandchildren. Pennsylvanians are dying from a disease, not because they were raised by bad parents.”

Secretary Osborne, who has served as a director for an Area Agency on Aging office, provided input on what resources are available to the grandparents and encouraged them as they work to raise their grandchildren.

“Hearing directly from Pennsylvania families, including seniors who are raising their grandchildren due to the opioid crisis, is so critical as we focus our efforts on providing the support these caregivers need as they navigate health, human and social service systems that are often challenging and complex,” Secretary Osborne said.  “The opioid crisis is presenting new challenges for older Pennsylvanians raising their grandchildren who enter into their care, often after experiencing significant trauma, and they need to know that their local aging network is available and equipped to help and support them.”

Acting Secretary Smith addressed the toll addiction takes on families.

“As we battle the opioid epidemic, we must always remember the toll substance use disorder can take on an entire family,” Acting Secretary Smith said. “Whether they are dealing with the loss of a parent or a strained relationship, support networks like The Highmark Caring Place are a vital tool that help families cope and grieve in a safe environment.”

Acting Secretary Miller provided perspective to those who took time to share their stories of pain and grief and to encourage them to continue to receive the therapy and treatment that they need to deal with their grief.

“A grandparent who loses their son or daughter to addiction and then chooses to raise their grandchild should receive the resources necessary to support themselves and their family,” Acting Secretary Miller said. “I appreciate any opportunity to hear from these individuals about what they need and how we can help them. I also extend my sincere gratitude to Highmark Caring Place for hosting this event and providing critical services to families that have been hurt by the opioid epidemic.”

The Highmark Caring Place is a center for grieving children, adolescents and their families. It is a safe place where children and their families going through the grief process can come together and be with others who understand what they’re going through. The Highmark Caring Place has locations in Pittsburgh, Erie, Harrisburg and Cranberry. There is no cost to use the Caring Place services and you do not need to be a Highmark Blue Shield insurance member to obtain help.

“The Highmark Caring Place has seen an increase in families seeking help following the death of a family member due to an overdose,” Terese Vorsheck, Director of the Highmark Caring Place said.  “In talking with the families in our program it has become apparent that many grandparents are now raising their grandchildren after having lost their child because of the effects of the opioid epidemic. These families are faced with many challenges and are often in need of resources and support. We are pleased the Wolf administration is using our facility for the backdrop for this important conversation.”

The Wolf Administration remains committed to helping Pennsylvanians dealing with the opioid crisis. For more information on the state’s efforts, visit https://www.pa.gov/guides/opioid-epidemic/ or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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