Richard Brown behind his desk at Marvel Way Apartments in Reno, NV

Meet Richard Brown – Marvel Way’s Program Director of Housing Services

Richard Brown behind his desk at Marvel Way Apartments in Reno, NV

In supporting our residents at Marvel Way, Richard understands the importance of striking the right balance. After all, Marvel Way isn’t a treatment program – it’s a long-term apartment community with services available on site. At minimum, Richard is responsible for monthly drug testing and managing issues as they arise. However, given his background running programs for clients with substance use disorders and psychiatric disabilities, as well as his personal history with addiction, his role goes well beyond.

Richard’s office is near the entrance to Marvel Way and his doors are always open. He appreciates residents who stop in for a quick hello – or a longer chat. He’s there to listen, or advise. He encourages everyone to stay engaged with their recovery, by regularly attending meetings, seeking a spiritual life, participating in community, and taking advantage of all the services available on site – psychiatric counseling, parenting classes, food bank visits, hair cuts, and more!

He acknowledges that sometimes recovery can be going well but then “all of a sudden, these things called life start happening. They are unexpected, barriers and roadblocks and pitfalls. And if we’ve never had to deal with them while maintaining a recovery background, there can be challenges.” Richard’s goal is to help residents continue to prioritize recovery and sustain their progress and personal growth.

Richard’s Journey

Richard was a heroin user and got clean for the first time in 1986 in Sacramento. “I was on the run,” he explains. I was running on 12 years of suspended sentences and I was only 30 years old. And by a set of circumstances that I truly considered divine intervention, I found myself finally in a recovery house.” Richard was a Montreal Olympic hopeful in Track and Field, training for the quarter mile in 1976, when he got injured. He didn’t have a contingency plan and “it broke me and I just quit.”

Within a couple months at Myrtle Men’s recovery house, newly clean in 1986, he was made House Manager of their Transitional House. But after just 6 months working here, he knew there was something else he needed to do before he could fully commit. He flew down to LA, turned himself in, and went to prison. While he was there, he started Alcoholic Anonymous in the State Penitentiary. What started with just him and one other grew to 47 men by the time he got his first year chip. After he got out, he volunteered at Myrtle’s for 2 years.

Richard relapsed in May of 1990. After his third suicide attempt on July 14, 1994, a close friend supported him in getting clean again. July 14th was the last time he ever used.

From here, with his friend’s encouragement, Richard began working for recovery houses and mental health programs in the Sacramento area. He worked for MiCasa Recovery House in 1994, Effort Detox beginning in 1995, supervised (and then managed) programs at A-House starting in 2001, and from there went into mental health. He was Program Manager of the Co-ops at TLCS (now called Hopes), a permanent supportive housing environment for people with psychiatric disabilities, and also worked for the Sacramento Men’s Recovery House. In 2016, he moved to Reno and began working as a drug and alcohol counselor for The Empowerment Center, before shifting to his current role of Program Director of Housing Services at Marvel Way.

Since moving to Nevada, Richard’s been awarded an experiential Masters Registered Addiction Specialist degree from Breining Institute in Sacramento, honoring his 30+ years of work in the field. He’s a certified co-occurring disorder specialist and a certified intervention specialist.

He’s been married to his wife Michelle for 25 years. Michelle is a Reiki Master, retired substance abuse professional, and former Empowerment Center employee. Together, they provide sound bath ceremonies at equine retreats, A to Zen, and other venues – with Richard drumming at these gatherings.

Why Nevada?

Richard has always been called to the mountains. Growing up, his family had a cabin in June Lake and spent two weeks there every summer. “There’s just no mountain I didn’t want to be in, ever,” he notes. He loves how in Northern Nevada, he can look out his kitchen window and see the Three Sisters. He can drive into Tahoe for an afternoon or take a quick jaunt down 395 for an eastern excursion.

When he hikes, “he gets claustrophobic if he spends any significant amount of time below the treeline.” He prefers to quickly ascend to to granite-filled moonscapes. This summer, he’s about to head out on his first big trip of the season, summiting Whitney via a challenging approach beginning in Onion Valley – a 7-10 day, 47-mile trip. He says he’s “never been able to find anything that’s been remotely as satisfying.”

Richard Brown grilling burgers at Marvel Way sober living community BBQ

Richard & Marvel Way

To Richard, one of the most impressive things he’s recognized at Marvel Way and The Empowerment Center is their approach to offering resources and ancillary services. When deciding what to offer, Roxanne and Yvette’s first step is often to check in with the community and ask “What do you want? What do you want to do?” With their broad referral network, they can then make the right connections and create programs that residents gravitate towards. Marvel Way is still a new community, and it’s important to build it with intention – bringing people together and continuing to shape their village, one step at a time.