Client Success Stories

Supported Housing Program Client | Sandra

Before Sandra connected with Buckelew Programs, she had experienced many years of mental health challenges that she had just learned to live with. “I never had the insight that help might be available,” she says. “I just thought it was ‘normal’ for me.” Her severe depression eventually resulted in estrangement from her family, losing her job and finally, losing her home.

“At the time I was homeless, I didn’t have much hope,” she says. “I thought it was going to be that way forever. I just didn’t care if I lived or died.” Living without stable housing can often exacerbate mental illness, and untreated individuals often experience crisis situations while living on the streets. Sandra was ultimately referred to Buckelew Programs through the county, and it was then that she became hopeful for her future. Through Buckelew, she was connected to counseling, housing and referrals to other community services available to her.

In 2020-2021, more than 650 clients were safely housed through Buckelew’s Supported Housing Program and received case management services to keep them in stable health. The program combines affordable housing with a range of intensive coordinated, evidence-based services, ensuring that clients avoid crises that can lead to hospitalizations or incarceration.

“I began to believe I could get my life back,” she says. “I don’t know if I every really had one. Buckelew in my life gave me light, when I had been living in the dark for so long.”

Sandra’s case manager, Jessie, was instrumental in helping Sandra secure independent housing through the Housing Disability Assistance Program. “She helped me complete the application, made sure I qualified, and then submitted it,” Sandra says. “I would not have known how to do such and be successful in doing so, on my own.”

Today, Sandra is enjoying living independently in a safe and stable environment, where she receives regular case management support through Buckelew that allows her to continue “focusing on getting better, on getting well.”

“I’m grateful for the help I received; for everyone at Buckelew who helped me finally reach this new chapter in my life,” she says. “No matter the challenges I’ll still face, I am living indoors with food to eat. I hope my story is enough to give someone else hope.”

Helen Vine Recovery Center Alum Giving back keeps me sober. | Anthony

A long-time Marin resident and caterer by trade, Anthony, like many Helen Vine Recovery Center (HVRC) alum, returns on a regular basis, often several times per week. There is a core group of about 15 former clients who come in on Wednesdays and Sundays to lead groups on various topics related to recovery. Others drop in to help facilitate and meet with the current clients.

“When I was a resident, it meant a great deal to me to hear from someone who had sat in my same chair. They showed me that I have the same opportunity as they did to succeed; that is was possible to improve the quality of my life.”

For many, an on-going connection with HVRC, staying close to the program, is a vital component of the recovery process. “Having the opportunity to be of service, to be supportive and to lend an ear to current clients is huge for me,” Anthony said. “Giving back keeps me sober.”

An early experience with addiction results in a lifelong passion and determination to practice law | Greg Bentley

Like many adolescents in high school, Greg B. discovered a fondness for alcohol. But what was different for Greg was the fact that he could not not drink to excess.  Every opportunity; every time.

By the age of 21, Greg had racked up three DUIs and ten or so misdemeanors, all alcohol-related.  In and out of the courtroom, a young defendant with no understanding of the law, Greg developed a keen interest in the court system. Amidst a background of serious mistakes and devastating consequences, a desire was born that would be his North Star for many challenging years to come.

After a brief stint in jail and then court-ordered rehab, Greg was resolute when getting out.

“I became self-conscious about being judged by others,” he said. “Even so, I didn’t take rehab seriously. I just knew I wanted to get my act together and wasn’t going to drink anymore.”

Surviving on sheer willpower without understanding recovery is what’s known as ‘untreated alcoholism’ – a formula not built to last. And even though the two years he stayed sober were productive, he eventually relapsed.

“All the things that are keeping me sober now, I had no concept of at that time,” he says. “Accepting that I have a disease, having sober fellowship; being a service to society. Knowing I can never do drugs or alcohol in a way that is NOT addictive. Knowing I can’t stay sober on my own.”

While finishing up his BA in Political Science at SFSU, Greg relapsed. For the next ten years, throughout law school and launching his career, Greg made his life function while still using.  Short bouts of productivity were followed by binge drinking.

“I was a tornado of destruction during that time,” he says. “Always trying to repair relationship collateral damage only to repeat it over and over again.”

Still, his growing passion for practicing law grew stronger and drove him forward. He joined the traveling mock trial team in law school and did well.  “I discovered I was decent at presenting arguments and cross examinations,” he says. “And I really, really, loved it. My drive for wanting to be a lawyer superseded my addiction for quite some time.  Criminal defense became the passion of my life.”

An internship with the San Francisco Public Defenders Office led to an offer for a post-graduate job with the local law firm owned by his idol, criminal defense attorney Tony Serra.  “A dream come true,” Greg says.

Greg’s star continued to skyrocket, and all the good he worked so hard for continued to pour in. As a newly-minted attorney, he served as Serra’s co-counsel on major cases throughout the state of CA – a privilege normally not extended to brand new lawyers.  Serra quickly gained confidence in Greg and began to funnel him important cases.

“He believed in me, and knew I could handle the larger cases,” Greg said. “But as a new attorney, I doubted myself.  I never said no. I wouldn’t admit I felt inexperienced – so I took it all on.”

At one point, Greg had 50 clients across the state and was enjoying the amenities of a successful career. “I was living large,” he said. “Thought I was a big shot – had it made.”

As courtroom appearances became more frequent, Greg knew he couldn’t afford to present under the influence of alcohol; but as his stress mounted, he looked for alternatives to cope.  He found a dealer who could provide a variety of ‘benzos’ – sedatives that would lessen his anxiety and go undetected.

Greg quickly developed a stellar reputation and was well-respected within his professional circles. As pressure built to sustain that level of achievement, even the benzos weren’t enough to silence the noise in his head.  In a moment of desperation, he tried heroin. And as all the voices went silent, Greg inherently knew he had just passed the point of no return.  Instantly it became a daily necessity.

Soon, Greg was the lead on a notorious murder trial in Modesto that dragged on for months, much longer than anticipated.  When not in the courtroom, Greg found a new crowd of folks who were active in the local drug world and met a girl.  Finally, the case wrapped; and meanwhile, many more cases back at the office had been piling up, needing his attention.   As Greg was driving out of town, headed home, his girlfriend called, pleading him to stay.

“At that moment, as I was turning the car around,” he said, “I knew I was making a pivotal decision that would change everything.  I literally never really came back after that.”  Quickly, everything began falling apart.

Friends, family and colleagues began looking for him.  As his life unraveled, Greg hid out in hotel rooms as he did drugs, constantly trying to bury his awareness that everything he worked so hard for was slipping away.  The money ran out just as he received notice that his license to practice law had been suspended due to his failure to respond to several complaints from the CA State Bar. Shortly thereafter, he was disbarred from the practice of law.

An expensive daily habit with zero money left meant finding new means of income. Greg learned how to operate in this arena and was taught the ropes on retail theft and stealing cars.  Nine months later, Greg re-entered the court system thirty pounds lighter as a criminal with an auto theft charge. His former colleagues were sure it was a mistake. Until he came back again.

“The heroin addiction is such a horrible, powerful thing,” he said. “The only thing that matters is not feeling horrible, which is a constant need.  Jails, institutions or death, that is where the heroin lifestyle takes people.”

Four months in the county jail followed.  When Greg was released with an ankle monitor, he was still using – but knew if he cut it off, he was headed to prison.   When he did eventually cut it off, he was on the run for months until getting caught, and then spent the next nine months in state prison.  When released to his dad’s house, his probation officer learned he was still on drugs.

“I was given a choice,” he said. “Back to jail, or Helen Vine Recovery Center for detox.”  Having lost everything, Greg knew this phase of his life was over and he was ready to embrace recovery.  He was admitted to the Center in February of 2018 and completed a ninety-day program.

“I walked into Helen Vine a convicted felon and a heroin junkie,” Greg says. “Never once was I made to feel like a criminal or drug addict – just a person who needed help. The counselors took a genuine interest in developing a customized program for me, versus applying the same ‘one size fits all’ general treatment plan that I’ve experienced elsewhere.”

Today, Greg has been sober for over three years and is working for several Bay Area attorneys as a legal researcher, writer and consultant.  However, he has much larger plans and is working on literally building his case for an ultimate attempt to reinstatement his license to practice law.

There is an established challenging process for reinstatement; the majority of applicants are not successful.  Greg will need to re-take the CA Bar Exam, as well as represent himself in court versus the State Bar of CA.  The ultimate decision, whether or not to grant licensure, lies with the CA Supreme Court.

“I’ll need to prove serious rehabilitation because I went so far off the deep end,” he says. “I’m eligible sooner, but I want to show five years sober to give myself the best chance and be fully ready.  Ultimately though, I want to be in a place where my happiness is not contingent on whether or not I practice law again.”

Greg continues to take steps towards rebuilding his legal career.  In addition to having recently completed the three-year Lawyer’s Assistance Program, Greg is now a part-time substance abuse counselor at Helen Vine while volunteering with The Other Bar (a recovery program for lawyers, judges and law students) and speaking at homeless shelters, law schools and in-patient rehab centers. He was recently recognized by Marin County Probation and earned a place on their ‘Wall of Change,’ which celebrates probationers who have successfully turned their lives around.

“If the Helen Vine Recovery Center did not exist, honestly, I don’t know if I would be sober,” Greg says.  “I would not have been able to detox on my own, which the other treatment center required for admission.  Ultimately, with the lifestyle I was living, there is a very high likelihood that I would be back in state prison or dead. There is no other program like it in Marin County.”

“I miss everything about being an attorney and being in a courtroom,” Greg says. “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had. But I will never lose my focus on continuing to do the activities that got me sober, cause that’s what keeps me sober.”

 

The Helen Vine Recovery Center has been the first step in recovery made by thousands of Marin residents.  Marin County’s only residential detox facility welcoming those with limited financial resources and a co-occurring disorder of mental illness and substance use, the Helen Vine Recovery Center was named in memory of a young woman who died because she was unable to find treatment for both of her conditions at the same time. Today, in partnership with Marin County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, the Helen Vine Center offers a safe place for people like Helen to pursue recovery from both mental illness and substance use. This past fiscal year, the Center counted over 900 admissions.

Buckelew was our lifeline | Scott (FSC Program)

Scott was in his mid-twenties and doing what a lot of young men at that age do. Playing his guitar, going to the gym, driving around town and enjoying spending time with his girlfriend. No one knows exactly what happened, but a public argument at a restaurant with the girl he was seeing was the triggering event that de-railed his life.

The event would soon have a ripple effect – impacting his entire family and ultimately leading to Scott’s ‘first break’ – an episode of psychosis that resulted in hospitalization.

Immediately after the restaurant incident, Scott dramatically changed. He stopped playing his music. He was argumentative. He stopped driving and isolated from his community. He slept all day. Sandy, Scott’s mom, was terrified for him. As a medical professional, she knew it was a mental health issue, but didn’t know where to turn for help.

As his behavior escalated, Sandy found herself having to leave the house multiple times, because she didn’t feel safe. Hesitant to involve law enforcement, Sandy knew situations involving police and those experiencing behavior related to psychosis didn’t always turn out well. Feeling desperate, she found NAMI through Google. NAMI referred her to Buckelew’s Family Service Coordination (FSC) team, connecting her with Katie Swan, Buckelew Programs’ Team Leader FSC.

“Katie was our lifeline,” Sandy says. “We began talking regularly. They educated me on what was happening and how to best navigate and address the situation.”

Buckelew Programs’ FSC Team strives to provide education, connection to local resources and support to family members and caregivers of adults and youth experiencing a wide range of mental health challenges.

Several months after connecting with Buckelew, Scott’s mental health decline resulted in an episode at the house that involved a broken window. Pushed to the breaking point, Scott’s brother told his mom, ‘if you don’t call the police, I will.”

The phone calls with Katie had prepared her well. Having been coached on how to effectively engage law enforcement, the encounter with police that day resulted in a heart-wrenching but helpful plan to assist Scott to access crisis mental health services at the hospital.

“I don’t know how I would have survived that phase of his illness without Katie’s help,’ said Sandy. “

“It’s so hard to watch your loved one struggle,” said Katie. “You can’t access services for them. We worked with the family to best prepare them for Scott’s return home.” Katie helped both Scott and the family navigate the “messy” process of assessments and encounters with doctors. “His paranoia made him struggle to trust anyone. We supported him throughout that time, encouraged him to ask questions and engage with staff to access the services that were fitting for him.”

Once home from the Crisis Residential Unit, Scott signed an agreement with his family that he would take his medication regularly and keep his doctor appointments. Katie connected Scott to case manager, John, who would interact with Scott regularly. John also enjoys many of the activities that Scott used to engage in. The relationship turned out to be transformative, resulting in Scott’s renewed interest in getting his life back. For the first time, he had insight into his illness and was open to leaving the house. He stopped sleeping all day and looked forward to his time with John.

“Prior to his connection with John,” Katie said, “Scott’s anxiety and internal stimulus was so extreme he would completely sweat through his clothes before meeting me in my office. At home, he would hide under a blanket for hours and struggle with his paranoia. Developing a relationship with him took time.”

John’s impact on Scott’s life through his advice and support is on-going. Goals include gaining confidence in managing his anxiety and continuing to build social skills and independence. He’s playing guitar again. He’s looking forward to going back to local parks with John, a practice they had started prior to COVID-19.

Sandy is encouraged by Scott’s progress and is hopeful for his future. “I want to see him integrate back into society and enjoy life,” Sandy says. “To drive again. Exercise. Have a girlfriend.”

“Early intervention is so important,” Katie says. “The sooner we can provide support and education, the sooner that person and their family can start the journey to recovery. And recovery is unique and defined by the individual. They get to choose what their recovery looks like and what works for them. Scott has done a phenomenal job at that.”

“I can’t describe how grateful I am for Katie, John and Buckelew,” says Sandy. “Without their help, I cannot image where we would be. They have given us hope.”

“If people have support in their life,” says Katie, “they can get through pretty much anything.”

I needed to be successful in order to support my family | Julie

Growing up in Marin, Julie was aware at a young age of the contrast between what she describes as her ‘affluent’ community and her own homelife. Her mom struggled to find stable housing, and Julie cycled through four foster homes before they could be reunited. Her feelings of being different continued at school, as she could ‘count on one hand’ the other girls of color in her grade.

Despite all seeming limitations, Julie excelled academically, playing the violin and clarinet in middle school and then in high school, earning placement in advanced classes all while playing sports and working a part-time job.

“I felt like I had to make up for a lot,” she says. “I needed to be successful in order to support my family.”

Peer pressure, however, was hard to resist, and by the time she graduated, excess use of drugs and alcohol had affected her mental state. She started to experience psychosis, or what she describes as an ‘alternate reality.’

“Who I was – what I believed in, how I saw myself and other people – was highjacked,” she says. “I became controlled by something else, but it still felt like me. I was seeing people who weren’t there and hearing voices.  I had categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people.  Those closest to me were always ‘bad,’ and I would often act out stories in my head and become aggressive.”

Julie remembered stories about other family members who had similar symptoms, but they were never diagnosed or treated.  For several years, Julie and her mom thought the behavior was related to alcohol and drug use – but even when Julie was sober for periods of time, the symptoms would continue.

“I finally acknowledged there could be a problem,” she says.  She sought out education about what she was experiencing with a local non-profit and she and her family came to accept that she has a mental illness.

“I’ve accepted it, but I don’t normally talk about it,” she says. “I don’t want to be seen as different. I’m conscious of the stigma out there. But I also want to do what I can to eliminate that stigma, which is why I’m telling my story.  People should not have to be afraid of being judged for having a mental illness.”

Having a diagnosis didn’t end the substance abuse; Julie experienced a period of homelessness, as she was repeatedly hospitalized.  When she would normally provide a fake address when asked where she lived, the last visit changed the direction of her life when she courageously revealed she was homeless.

It was then that Julie became connected with Buckelew Programs, beginning with a short stay at Casa Rene, then gradually moving into more independent living programs, all while being supported with therapy, case management and medical oversight.

One of my biggest goals was to learn how to listen | Darryl

In the first five minutes of meeting and talking with Darryl, it’s obvious he has many qualities of a man who was raised well. A good listener; kind, thoughtful, respectful and fully present.

“I was the only boy in a house full of women,” he says. “My mom paid special attention to me; spoiled me rotten and was my best friend growing up. She instilled in me the value of hard work.”

Born and raised in Marin County, Darryl and his three sisters lost both their parents early in life, within a short period of time. “I needed my dad, and my mom was my rock. Losing them in my twenties was a shock that I spent the next 25 years trying to escape from.”

Having been ‘raised to go to work,’ Darryl succeeded in learning various trades, becoming a senior member of a local construction labor union as well as earning certification as a tree surgeon. He married, and became a father to four children.

“I was functioning, but still hadn’t faced, much less recovered from, losing my parents,” he said. “I needed to keep pushing those feelings down. Drugs and alcohol worked to numb the pain.”

As his addiction took hold, work became more elusive. He would enter treatment at his family’s encouragement, but the cycle of relapse resulted in homelessness and Darryl found himself living out of his car.  A fall out of a tree resulted in the fracture of both ankles and he was told he would never walk again.

“But I would get where I needed to go every day to feed my habit, rolling my wheelchair wherever,” he says. “The lifestyle was hard; I was truly tired and ready to take on sobriety for myself – not for friends or family.  For me.”

Teresa Bowman is a director at Buckelew Program’s Helen Vine Detox Center in San Rafael; she is also a long-term friend of Darryl’s family and was in regular contact with him, encouraging him to seek treatment.

When Teresa called Darryl with the news that a bed had just opened up, he knew it was time. “I was familiar with the existence of the ‘revolving door,’” he said. “I knew that wasn’t going to be me.  I was through ‘trying.’ I had made the decision to finally turn my life around.”

Soon Darryl was volunteering to help staff, stepping up to take on work projects and serving as an example to the other clients. “I took the program very seriously,” he said. “One of my biggest goals was to learn how to listen.  Because I don’t know everything.”

Early in his treatment, Darryl received news that his 19 y/o son had been paralyzed from a gunshot wound. Knowing how much his son needed him – now more than ever – to be whole and healthy only made Darryl more determined to succeed.

Today, Darryl continues to be an example for others in the program and has graduated to Buckelew Programs’ sober living environment (SLE) residential home.  Three other program graduates live there as well and continue to receive support services that keep them focused on sobriety while they work, and/or attend school.

Darryl has since launched his own one-man business, purchased a work truck and is enjoying the healing of relationships with his family.  Practicing his faith is a cornerstone of his daily routine, starting each morning with Bishop T.D. Jakes on YouTube.

“Today, my mind works in a completely different way,” he says. “Instead of focusing only on where I’m getting my next fix, I’m living a responsible life in the real world. I process information now. I am 100 percent present.”

“I no longer have to bury painful memories with drugs and alcohol,” he says. “I’m learning to live a normal life by taking on responsibility for myself that I’d been running from for years. I want to keep moving forward.”

My thoughts were, “it’s time for an adventure” | David

“Where I was, was bad.  This program was the answer.”

David grew up with a close-knit family in San Francisco in the 80’s.  “As kids,” he says, “we took the bus everywhere – cost just a nickel.”

In 1983, his father bought him the new Apple IIe. “We were the first house on the block to buy a PC,” he says. “The computer era was just launching; I consumed everything tech at that time.”

David excelled in school and was accepted into competitive gifted academic programs.  He participated in choir and the debate team, and finished high school early to attend a year-long program in Israel, to which he had won a full scholarship.

“I had close friends,” he says. “I was social; much more so than I am now.”

Many years later, living with a bi-polar diagnosis, David clearly remembers the time in his life when his mental illness first presented itself.  “My rational decision-making abilities were gone,” he says. “My thoughts were, ’it’s time for an adventure.’”  He left school.  Six months later, when the episode was ending, he would go back to school. “It took me seven years to get my BA,” he says.

And the cycle continued – for nearly two decades.  “It never occurred to me I was ill,” he says. “Even though I was experiencing evictions, homelessness and not sleeping, I was euphoric. I thought my time spent on Skid Row was ‘free paradise.’ I would become a completely different person, one who is unimaginable to me now.”

After his third hospitalization, David ‘had a moment of clarity,’ and took his sister’s advice to seek help. “My sister, a psychiatrist, told me there was a good program in Marin called Buckelew. That was six years ago.”

David was accepted into Buckelew’s Marin Assisted Independent Living (MAIL) program, where he has maintained stability and mental health.  MAIL program clients share living space in housing where BP provides comprehensive oversight of care.  BP service providers visit the homes three times a day and work with the clients to ensure meds are taken, chores are completed, appointments are kept and meals are planned for and prepared.

Emily McDonald is a Buckelew Program’s case worker. She meets with the housemates once a week to help plan meals and make a grocery shopping list.

“This program provides real homes for our clients,” said Emily.  “This is their home, their family.  Many clients have never experienced a warm, stable and supportive environment, like we provide. They are accepted and cared for here. It’s love and hope that we provide.”

“Buckelew was a lifesaver for me,” David says. “Prior to getting here, I didn’t have a regular doctor, much less a psychiatrist and therapy. They helped me establish routine and structure, to where I am OK, safe and stable. If this program didn’t exist, it would have been disastrous for me.”

Today, David still enjoys close relationships with his family members and is feeling confident about establishing new goals.

“I’m a grateful person,” he says. “I take nothing for granted – food, shelter, health. Just because of what I lived through.  For me, just to be OK is a big deal.”

You have to be active in your child’s life and your community | Demar

“This is for other people,” Demar told his recovery coach several days after arriving at the Helen Vine Recovery Center. “Not for me.” His coach asked him to give it his best shot for the next 30 days. Nearly four months later, Demar was completely transformed. “Helen Vine had become my cornerstone; my family. I didn’t want to leave, but I knew I was ready.”

Originally from Oakland, Demar moved to Marin as a teenager when he had been getting in a lot of trouble, and his godparents offered a different environment. Shortly after graduating, Demar focused on working to support his baby girl, and a dead-end cycle began. “I would work multiple jobs, pay my bills, and party with the rest. Work, drink, use, pay bills – and repeat. Over and over.”

He became frustrated and felt like there was never enough money. The crowd he was hanging out with became more centered on drug use and supporting their habits with theft. Demar began finding himself in and out of jail. “Another dead-end cycle,” he says.

Throughout this period, Demar always remained close with his daughter. At one point, he was talking to her from jail and she confessed she was embarrassed because classmates knew her daddy was incarcerated. “That was rough,” he said. “I looked around and knew I didn’t want to be one of the older guys in jail saying to the younger men, ‘don’t end up like me.’”

“Before my father passed away, he sat me down,” Demar said. “He said to me, ‘as a man, there are certain responsibilities you have. You have to be active in your child’s life and your community. You’re wasting time.’”

The county offered recovery at Helen Vine. Once he was ‘all-in,’ he attended every meeting and volunteered for every available job. “I opened my mind to try something different, to try a path that wasn’t a guaranteed dead-end. There is a saying in AA – ‘Try something new; if you don’t like it, we’ll refund your misery for free.’”

Demar left for a sober living environment (SLE), but rode his bicycle daily to Helen Vine to attend morning recovery meetings. Soon, he was offered the position of assistant house manager with another SLE. More responsibility came with a promotion to house manager. At his second job, he went from cook to store manager. He took on the role of secretary for the large Helen Vine alumni group.

Today, Demar is working towards a career in the recovery field and is a registered drug and alcohol technician. He is passionate about building into local youth and volunteers regularly with several non-profits. He would like to one day open a Boys & Girls Club in Marin.

“My roots, my recovery foundation, my grounding – all happened at Helen Vine,” Demar says. “My closest friends were made here. This is the only recovery program that could have worked for me.”

Since opening in 1999, HVRC has helped more than 22,000 individuals overcome addiction, heal emotional trauma and develop the tools they need to transform their lives. Clients at HVRC become part of a large, supportive community of staff, peers and alumni who are dedicated to making their time in treatment, as well as outside of treatment, successful.

I always need to be creative otherwise my mental health suffers | Jessica

Sophia, a Sonoma resident, experienced her first psychotic break at the young age of 12 and was hospitalized at age 16.  While she and her family grappled to understand what was happening and what to do, Sophia’s mental illness continued to ‘color every thought she had,’ and she ended up homeless for several years.

Her eventual diagnosis confirmed she was suffering from multiple forms of mental illness and Sophia entered treatment as a young woman.  When she first connected with Buckelew Programs (BP), she was living in county-provided housing with roommates who were also experiencing mental health challenges as well as addiction.

“A BP case manager was working with me to apply for independent housing,” she says. “My current living situation was becoming really scary and unmanageable. They worked quickly and helped to successfully move me into a place of my own.”

Seven years later, Sophia is a client with BP’s Sonoma County Independent Living (SCIL) Program and receives case management, which helps her remain stable and independent. “My case manager, Jessie, helps me with practical day-to-day items and planning,” she says.  “She’s also emotionally supportive and dependable. I spend a lot of time alone, so I’m always happy to see her.”

“Sophia is very skillful with regards to utilizing healthy coping techniques to manage her symptoms,” says Jessie. “She has a strong support system, which consists of community support meetings, a nutritionist and a case manager. She is very active in her mental and physical health recovery.”

Along with cooking and her emotional-support pet cat, Sophia enjoys drawing, almost daily.

“Drawing is very therapeutic for me,” she says. “It gives me something to accomplish as well as something to share. I always need to be creative otherwise my mental health suffers. There is a long history of people with mental illness bringing astounding pieces to the art world. I can be a small part of that world with my drawings.”

Buckelew made my independence possible | Josh

When Josh first connected with Buckelew Program’s Transitional Adult Youth (TAY) program at age 18, he was living with his mother but needed and wanted support to work towards independence and creating a future of his own. Reading at a college level since the first grade, Josh grew up enjoying all types of books and developed a talent for writing. His love of the written word was “always a constant” in his life, and helped sustain him during turbulent times.

Early adolescence was a tough road. For a number of years, Josh was placed in group homes that ‘felt like prison.’ His mother took him to see a variety of doctors and psychiatrists who diagnosed him with a number of different mental illnesses. “I was put on meds for years to treat bipolar, Tourette’s, anxiety, etc.,” Josh says.

Just recently, at the age of 21, Josh was re-evaluated and the determination was made that he didn’t have multiple mental illnesses but only one, which was PTSD.  “I am aware of my triggers and how to manage my symptoms,” he says. “Today, I am off all medication.”

BP caseworkers connected Josh to counseling and helped him navigate resources in support of his desire to live independently as well as pursue a History degree at the local junior college. A big achievement in support of those goals included learning how to take public transportation, which was an important step towards enrolling in school.

Josh continued to excel, and through BP’s partnership with Social Advocates for Youth (SAY), he made a successful move to living independently at Tamayo Village. Soon after relocating, Josh successfully secured a part-time job, where he has maintained steady employment for the past year.

Josh was accepted at Santa Rosa Junior College, and began classes as a freshman, living independently and successfully navigating transportation to get to and from school. And even though he didn’t feel “good at it,” Josh was enjoying being in community with his peers and interacting with classmates. When the pandemic hit, the transition was abrupt and stressful.

“All of the sudden,” he says, “I was alone again, all the time. It was difficult.”  His GPA dropped as a result, but through regular support from his BP caseworkers, his GPA rebounded, and Josh was encouraged to pursue a four-year degree. In early August of 2021, Josh is headed to Columbia, SC, where he will major in African American studies at Allen University.

“Josh has been extremely successful envisioning his future and working with determination,” says case manager Christine. “He uses his good, if sometimes dark, sense of humor to learn new skills and achieve his goals. It has been such a joy to bear witness to this change in Josh and I am so excited for him to start out on this next phase of his life.”

Josh has a goal to ultimately write a “fictional novel based on reality,” and if he had the choice, he would love to intern with Marvel Comics. As he’s preparing to leave for school, Josh is “very excited” about his future.

“Buckelew made my independence possible,” Josh says. “They taught me how to successfully live on my own; manage my money. BP let me learn.  BP works. That’s all I can say.”

By nature, I tend to be a ‘fixer’ | Marie – SP Volunteer

It’s Personal

Marie is a valuable member of Buckelew Programs’ Suicide Prevention Hotline volunteer corp.  Like all who are sanctioned to ‘work the phones,’ Marie had to successfully complete the 40-hour training program. Only those who prove they can effectively apply what they’ve learned through training are permitted to ‘graduate’ and work Hotline shifts.

The Hotline celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021, having provided crisis intervention to more than 300,000 local residents since its inception. Several of the Hotline volunteers have been with the program for 20 years and more. Many serve because they’ve lived through the suicide of a family member or close friend and are passionate about the cause.

Marie, a retired nurse, has been a long-term supporter of the program. She has also lost two close family members to suicide. “I’d always ask if there was any other volunteer position available besides answering the phones. I was too scared. But this year, I decided it was time to get involved on a deeper level.”

“By nature, I tend to be a ‘fixer,’ she says. “But that isn’t our role. We can’t cure every problem. We can only be with them in that moment.  But in that space, we have a tremendous opportunity to make an impact. The ones who call – part of them wants to live.”

“I still get nervous before every shift,”’ she says. “But once I get here, I’m OK.”

I can be a small part of that world with my drawings | Sophia

Sophia, a Santa Rosa resident, experienced her mental health symptoms (depression) at the young age of 12 and was hospitalized at age 16. While she and her family grappled to understand what was happening and what to do, Sophia’s mental illness continued to ‘color every thought she had,’ and she ended up homeless for several years at age of 24.

Her eventual diagnosis confirmed she was suffering from multiple forms of mental illness and Sophia entered treatment as a young woman.  When she first connected with Buckelew Programs (BP) after homelessness, she was living in county-provided housing with roommates who were also experiencing mental health challenges as well as addiction.

“A BP case manager was working with me to apply for independent housing,” she says. “My current living situation was becoming really scary and unmanageable. They worked quickly and helped to successfully move me into a place of my own.”

Seven years later, Sophia is a client with BP’s Sonoma County Independent Living (SCIL) Program and receives case management, which helps her remain stable and independent. “My case manager, Jessie, helps me with practical day-to-day items and planning,” she says.  “She’s also emotionally supportive and dependable. I spend a lot of time alone, so I’m always happy to speak with her by phone. We use the phone because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

“Sophia is very skillful with regards to utilizing healthy coping techniques to manage her symptoms,” says Jessie. “She has a strong support system, which consists of community support meetings, a nutritionist and a case manager. She is very active in her mental and physical health recovery.”

Along with cooking and her emotional-support pet cat, Sophia enjoys drawing, almost daily.

“Drawing is very therapeutic for me,” she says. “It gives me something to accomplish as well as something to share. I always need to be creative otherwise my mental health suffers. There is a long history of people with mental illness bringing astounding pieces to the art world. I can be a small part of that world with my drawings.”