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Allegheny

Dr. Neil Capretto, who helped thousands battle addiction, succumbs to cancer

Tony LaRussa
| Sunday, June 10, 2018, 11:39 a.m.
Dr. Neil Capretto, medical director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Beaver County, advocates for more robust treatment programs to deal with heroin and opiate addiction while testifying at a 2015 hearing at The Center for Rural Pennsylvania. Dr. Capretto lost his battle with bladder cancer on Saturday, June 9, 2018.
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Dr. Neil Capretto, medical director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Beaver County, advocates for more robust treatment programs to deal with heroin and opiate addiction while testifying at a 2015 hearing at The Center for Rural Pennsylvania. Dr. Capretto lost his battle with bladder cancer on Saturday, June 9, 2018.

Dr. Neil Capretto, the longtime medical director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center who helped save the lives of thousands of people struggling to overcome addiction, has died.

Dr. Capretto, who grew up in Vandergrift, revealed last year that he was suffering from small cell carcinoma of the gallbladder, a rare form of cancer that affects one in 100 million people, according to an article posted on Gateway Rehab's website.

Dr. Capretto of Beaver died Saturday. He was 62.

During his battle with cancer, which included scores of chemotherapy and radiation treatments as well as a dozen surgeries, Dr. Capretto continued to work daily treating patients suffering from substance abuse disorder at Gateway's main campus in Aliquippa, according to the article.

“When I was given the diagnosis, I literally suddenly found myself fighting for my life on a daily basis the same way thousands and thousands of people in our community and around the country are fighting for their lives on a daily basis,” Dr. Capretto said.

“The only difference is I am blessed with receiving the best medical care that modern science can offer. At least I have a fighting chance. I believe that people with addiction deserve to have the same fighting chance that I do,” he said.

A graduate of Allegheny College in Meadville and the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Capretto served as the chief resident in psychiatry at the former St. Francis General Hospital in Pittsburgh — where Dr. Abraham Twerski, served as head of psychiatry and became Dr. Capretto's mentor.

Twerski, an international expert in addiction, founded Gateway Rehabilitation in 1972.

Dr. Capretto regularly served as a consultant to local and national media outlets, including ABC and NBC network news, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, People, Women's Health, Ladies' Home Journal and the Lifetime television network.

In 2009, he was named the Not-for-Profit Communicator of the Year by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Dr. Capretto was among the first physicians in the United States to be certified and awarded diplomat status by the American Board of Addiction Medicine. He also served on the board of directors for the Pennsylvania Society of Addiction Medicine; was a member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, where he served on the Task Force on Addiction Medicine in the 21st Century; and was a member of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry.

In 2012, Dr. Capretto was named Psychiatrist of the Year by the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Friends will be received from 5 to 8 p.m. on Monday and from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Noll Funeral Home, 333 Third St. in Beaver.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368 or tlarussa@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.

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