New addiction recovery center takes place of St. Anthony Farm

  • Psychologist Dr. Wayne Thurston is the founder and executive director of Olympia House, a chemical dependency treatment facility near Petaluma. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

At Olympia House addiction recovery center, residents have to hike up a hill to care for the farm animals that are part of their healing plan. Sometimes they don't feel like it.

But Dr. Wayne Thurston, founder of the newly opened west Sonoma County facility, puts it in perspective: "If your drug dealer was on top of that hill, you wouldn't have trouble getting up there."

Getting addicts "out of themselves" and out of their element in the rural setting is key, Thurston said.

The two-month-old residential rehab center, nestled in bucolic rolling hills amid working dairy ranches and charmingly decrepit barns, has brought the land full circle.

For nearly four decades, the sprawling site off Valley Ford Road was owned by the Catholic Church, which oversaw the nonprofit St. Anthony Farm drug and alcohol rehabilitation center run by Alfred Boeddeker, a Franciscan monk.

Residents, mostly from the streets of San Francisco, worked on the farm, producing food for the church's soup kitchen and dairy products that were sold to Clover Stornetta and others.

But in 2008, the Franciscan Order's board of directors decided to shutter the Bloomfield farm in a cost-cutting move.

For years, Thurston, a Sebastopol resident and longtime Bay Area psychologist, had driven past the site and dreamed of running a recovery center there.

Earlier this year, dairy farmers Kathy and Joe Tresch, who bought the 160 acres in January, got together with land broker T.J. Nelson, who with Thurston and a handful of other local investors created Sonoma Recovery Services to run Olympia House.

Along with the main building, where as many as 24 residents can be housed, a dwelling on the property will become a "sober living house," a transitional residence for graduates of Olympia House before they head back out on their own.

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