Many addicts who seek treatment get turned away due to limited state funding

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — What if you’re an addict who is ready to seek help? 8News recently discovered that many who seek treatment are forced to wait because of high demand at rehabs.

Luis Quintero was hooked on heroin. He left New York to try and get help in Chesterfield County only to be told to come back later.

“They told me to come back in two weeks,” Quintero said.

Determined to get clean, Quintero detoxed by himself.

“The withdrawals, the no sleeping, the anxiety, the kicking,” he said. “It took me 31 days.”

Quintero eventually got into a treatment program in Richmond, and he got clean.

8News spoke with Dr. Jim May, of the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority about the backlog at rehab clinics.Luis’ story is unique. Many others end up falling off of the wagon while waiting to get treatment.

“The waiting period just to get in the front door, which is what we call the assessment period, has been ranging between two to three months,” May said.

“They told me to come back in two weeks.”

After that initial assessment, May said it can take another month or two to get into a residential treatment program or methadone clinic.

“It frustrates everybody who works here that there is this much of a backlog,” May said. “I don’t think anyone could have ever predicted there would be this many people addicted to heroin and opioids at this day and age in America.”

Part of the problem comes from the fact that while heroin addiction in Virginia has skyrocketed, funding for substance abuse has remained stable.

Even if there was more money for treatment, Virginia law makes it difficult to open up additional methadone clinics in an urban setting. State code says that they cannot be located within one half mile of a public or private daycare or school.”I think that in a lot of ways we are being asked to do more than we are funded to do,” May said.

Recovering addict Shannon Rivera leads a pre-treatment class for those on the wait list at Richmond Behavioral Health Authority. She is a certified recovery coach.

“I feel like that is my job to let them know there is hope at the end of the tunnel,” Rivera said.

Quintero is living proof.

“I got honest with myself. I had to humble myself and learned how to ask for help,” he said.

Related links:


  • Half of young people who used heroin got started by abusing prescription opioids.
  • One in fifteen individuals who misuse prescription opioid painkillers will try heroin within 10 years.
  • The number of opioid prescriptions has nearly tripled over the last 25 years, and the United States now accounts for nearly 100 percent of the world’s hydrocodone prescriptions and 81 percent for oxycodone.
  • The number of Americans abusing heroin nearly doubled from 2007 to 2012, with nearly 700,000 now abusing heroin.

In Virginia, abuse and overdose deaths continue to rise:

  • Prescription opioid overdose deaths have risen 44 percent between 2007 and 2015, from 399 deaths to 576.
  • Heroin overdose deaths have risen more than 600 percent between 2010 and 2015, from 48 to 342.
  • Fentanyl deaths have risen 367 percent from 2007 to 2015, from 48 to 224.
  • More than 500 people went to a Virginia emergency room from a heroin overdose in the first four months of 2016, a 250% increase over 2015.

Click here for more from Fighting the Fix.

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