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RVA’s only residential substance abuse treatment center to undergo major changes

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RICHMOND, Va. -- It’s hard to believe now, but at one point, Shannon Rivera had no idea how to live.

“I didn’t know how to wash clothes, how to keep an area clean, how to take care of myself,” Rivera said.

At 16, Rivera started using crack cocaine. By 24, she lost custody of her kids and became homeless.

“I never for the life of me thought I could get a day clean. I couldn’t stay clean, I couldn’t imagine my life without using drugs,” she said.

That is, until she found Rubicon, Richmond’s only residential substance abuse treatment center.

After five months, Rivera was sober and 12 years later she now counsels others on recovery.


Some of her clients use Rubicon, but she said it is not as helpful as it used to be.

“I don’t see a lot of people staying clean or even getting anything out of the experience,” Rivera said.

Still, she is hopeful because her current employer, the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, bought the property.

“We’ve already done substantial repairs, we’ve basically repaired HVHC systems across the campus,” Dr. John Lyndstrom, the executive director of the RBHA, said.

Lyndstrom said Rubicon was millions of dollars in debt, and would not have been able to continue operating without RBHA’s help.

“Individuals that Rubicon has been providing treatment to, had they failed, would be seeking services far from Richmond and at a much higher cost,” Lyndstrom said.

RBHA did not buy Rubicon, just the property, but it will run a different residential treatment program that will qualify for Medicaid benefits.

This means Rubicon will shut down.

“There would be a lot of improvement because they know what they’re doing,” Rivera said. “They know what works.”

Because RBHA wants to qualify for Medicaid benefits, there are new federal standards employees will need to meet to work for the new treatment center, which means some Rubicon employees will lose their jobs.