As far back as third grade, Doug Tieman abhorred human suffering and wanted to alleviate it.
To that end, Tieman, president and CEO of Caron Treatment Centers, headquartered in bucolic South Heidelberg Township, has dedicated most of his professional life working in the addiction treatment field.
A former executive with the Hazeldon Foundation in Minnesota, Tieman left to join Caron in 1995 at a time when Caron was facing serious financial challenges.
During his tenure, he has helped restore the organization to fiscal health, growing revenue nearly tenfold. Today, he oversees a $100 million operating budget and has expanded Caron’s programs, research and facilities to five states and Washington, D.C.
It is why Tieman is one of the most influential people on business in the Greater Lehigh Valley.
Tieman is leading Caron Treatment Centers, which has a reputation as one of the best in the country, as it undergoes a new expansion phase.
In December, the $20 million Carol and Ray Neag Medical Center opened at Caron’s 250-bed treatment center in South Heidelberg, known as the Wernersville campus. The organization plans to spend another $10 million to $15 million updating the rest of the campus.
Caron also is building a $50 million campus in Palm Beach, Fla., and is exploring expansions in five other cities, including Philadelphia and New York.
A leader in the addiction field, Tieman often speaks at national conferences, particularly now as the country grapples with an opioid epidemic.
In December, Tieman testified at a Congressional subcommittee hearing about a rise in poor or inappropriate treatment, patient brokering and addiction treatment fraud.
Tieman summed up his leadership philosophy, and that of Caron, with the adage: “To much is given, much is expected.”
While Caron continues to be among the treatment facilities of choice for people who can afford care anywhere in the country, Tieman said, the organization is mindful of its obligation to be affordable and accessible to people whom he calls the “impoverished middle class” and to the surrounding community and region.
As a nonprofit, Caron faces challenges.
“Every nonprofit has to balance its mission and its margins,” Tieman said. “Most facilities may do one or the other; very few are able to do both.
“From a cultural perspective, that is what we pride ourselves on, balancing the two.”
As the opioid epidemic continues to grow, it has created a double-edged sword.
While causing misery and death, Tieman noted, it has for the first time in his 35 years in the addiction and recovery field created greater public awareness and an urgent sense of needing to do something about the problem, whether from government, insurance companies, employers, schools or communities.
“Every family knows somebody who is what they would call a model citizen, who did the right things, went to school, got a job or tried to get a job and succumbed to the opioid epidemic and passed away,” Tieman said. “… We’re actually as a society talking about it and addressing it.”
‘IT DOESN’T GO AWAY’
In his memoir, “Flying Over the Pigpen: Tried and True Leadership Lessons From Growing Up on a Farm,” published in 2015, Tieman said one of the lessons his father imparted was to do the right thing even when people aren’t watching.
As a leader in the field, Caron has to be fending for those suffering from substance use disorders, Tieman said.
“We need be out there for society in general to try to help educate them about substance use disorder, that treatment works and not to stick their heads in the sand,” he said. “Because it doesn’t go away.”
Tieman said he wants Caron to be the kind of organization where “we always have a culture where the heart continues to be there.”