History of Buckelew

Buckelew Programs was founded as Buckelew Farms in November 1970, largely through the efforts of Murray Richards and his wife Harriet, who provided the first facility. The name came from Thomas Buckelew, an early settler and Spanish land grantee on whose tract the house sat.

Buckelew was Marin’s first community-based 24-hour facility serving local residents with a mental illness. The clients, late teenage and young adult women, moved into the house in early l971. The program was organized on a traditional halfway-house model, and initial financial assistance came from the San Francisco Foundation and the Babcock Endowment. In 1973, the first satellite house was rented, but a year later it was apparent that more beds and expanded services were needed. In l975, with significant help from the Cowell, Hewlett, Lurie, and Irvine Foundations, Buckelew began a long period of significant expansion in developing supported housing in Marin County.

Buckelew Employment Services (BES) began in 1986 as a Transitional Employment Program (TEP) to provide vocational counseling and job training to clients, with employment offered in work-crews that performed basic janitorial and maintenance services at Buckelew facilities, and at local homes or businesses.

Later on, this social enterprise component of BES came to be known as Blue Skies Janitorial Services. Over the years BES has expanded its services and payers, and now includes an evidence-based Supported Employment Program, Blue Skies Personnel Services, and Blue Skies Café.

In the spring of 1994, Buckelew Programs was selected to implement a pilot project known as The Avenue, at three residences on the grounds of Napa State Hospital. Marin, Napa, Sonoma and Solano Counties jointly chose Buckelew to provide a transitional residential treatment program for their clients who would otherwise be in institutional placements. That pilot project became a springboard for additional Buckelew Programs growth in Napa County.

In 1999, Buckelew was selected by the County of Sonoma to provide independent living services for adults with a mental illness. In early 2001, the County of Sonoma expanded its contract with Buckelew to provide new services to mental health clients in the County’s Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) team. Since then, we have seen significant growth in our Sonoma County programs, and now provide employment services and family support services in addition to our supported housing programs in Sonoma County.

In January 2009 Buckelew opened its first Blue Skies Coffees & Teas outlet in the Marin County Health & Wellness Campus in San Rafael.  Blue Skies Coffees & Teas is a social enterprise venture that is designed to meet a "triple bottom line" of social, financial and environmental goals.  On top of creating jobs for our clients, the espresso bar, which serves organic coffees, sandwiches and salads, is a Certified Green Business.  A second location was opened in January 2011 on the Napa County Health & Human Services Campus.

In 2010 Buckelew was awarded a contract from the Marin County Housing Authority to provide case management to elderly and disabled residents of five public housing sites in San Rafael, Novato, and Mill Valley.        


In April 2011 Buckelew added The Helen Vine Recovery Center (formerly The Helen Vine Detox Center) to its continuum of services.  With a high incidence of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders among our clients, the addition of The Vine strengthens our capacity to successfully address the needs of complex clients.

January 2012 brought a decision by the board of directors of Buckelew and Family Service Agency of Marin to complete a strategic merger between the organizations.  With a combined history of 100 years of service, the merger creates the leading behavioral health organization in the North Bay, providing a full, integrated continuum of mental health and addiction treatment for people across their entire lifespan, from early childhood through aging services, and across the range of needs from serious mental illness to life transitions and personal growth.

At its birth in 1971, Buckelew Programs, with a $27,000 annual budget and five board members, served six clients and employed four people.  Today, the agency has a staff of approximately 240 employees, and in 2013-2014 provided a continuum of service to over 11,800 clients.  The annual budget is approximately $14,000,000.  While public funding from County mental health departments and client fees provide the majority of the agency's revenue, fund raising remains a critical element in order to enhance the quality and range of agency services.