Holyoke, Mass.—Area legislators gathered at the Gándara Center’s Hope for Holyoke program on Jan. 9 to participate in a Legislative Breakfast hosted by the agency and State Rep. Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke, as a thank you for their continued support of the program.

Earlier this year, the proposed state budget set before Gov. Charlie Baker significantly reduced the Substance Abuse Trust Fund, jeopardizing programing funding and putting it at a risk of closing.

“Our staff did a lot of advocacy work and outreach to legislators to restore the full funding,” said Lisa Brecher, director of communications and development for the Gándara Center. “If that didn’t happen, our Hope for Holyoke program truly would have been at risk.”

Hope for Holyoke is the only peer-based recovery program of its kind in Hampden County and there is no cost associated with participating; no insurance required. The program accepts all paths to recovery; offers therapy and group sessions; social events and job preparedness; and advocacy and recovery coaching. The recovery center opened two years ago to provide a continuum of care individuals to maintain their recovery.

“The legislative breakfast is our way of saying thank you to our legislators for helping to fight for funding and show them how the dollars they fought for are hard at work,” said Brecher.

Hope for Holyoke is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Bureau of Substance Abuse. Of the 10 state-funded programs, the Gándara Center is the host agency for three, Hope for Holyoke being one of them.

“The members were really scared they would lose this program,” said Hope for Holyoke Program Director Debra Flynn-Gonzalez. “Many of them said, ‘If I don’t have this program, I don’t know where I would be; it would definitely put me at risk.’”

Flynn-Gonzalez said the legislative breakfast was a great way to not only thank the legislators for their help in securing the funding to continue the program, but for them to see the continued importance of keeping the program’s doors open to the community.

“Our members have noted the importance of having a peer recovery support system like they receive here,” said Flynn-Gonzalez. “Many of them have gone through detox and aftercare is really important in ensuring their long term recovery and sobriety.”

In addition to Rep. Vega, area legislators in attendance included Sen. James T. Welch, D-West Springfield; a representative fromSen. Eric P. Lesser’s office, D-Longmeadow; Rep. Jose Tosado, D-Springfield; Rep. John Velis, Westfield; and a representative from Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse’s office.

“Gándara’s programs connect directly with our citizens most in need,” said Vega. “The work done by the Gándara staff is life changing, and sometimes life-saving, for the people they serve. I am thankful for the work they are doing on the front lines of our community.”

Since Hope for Holyoke opened its doors in January 2015, over 300 individuals have sought support through the program, which is open seven days per week. Carlos Mercado, a graduate of Gándara’s Addiction Recovery Program and an active member at the Hope for Holyoke Recovery Support Center, is currently working on his Certified Alcohol/Drug Abuse Counselor (CADC) and Recovery Coach certifications.

“I still struggle every day,” said Mercado. “But this center is the positive network I need and surround myself with to keep going.”


The Gándara Center’s mission is to promote the well-being of diverse populations through innovative, culturally sensitive behavioral health, substance abuse, prevention and educational services. Founded in 1977 to advocate and provide for equal services in the Hispanic community, the Gándara Center has been providing the Valley’s most vulnerable populations with sensitive and appropriate care for 40 years. Today, the Gándara Center serves a diverse multicultural clientele in more than 40 locations across Massachusetts. Our family-centered and community-based approach reaches more than 13,000 children, families, and adults every year through residential, mental health, substance abuse, and preventative services.