Link House Inc. Launches Drive to Thrive Matching Grant

Tuesday November 23, 2021

REGIONAL – When Christine Deegan came to the Maris Center for Women a second time, her life was in shambles. She was suffering from alcohol abuse and knew she needed help. 

“I’d lost everything. My family and friends had given up on me,” Christine said last week. “It was my own fault.”  

With the structured programs at the Maris Center in Salisbury that include counseling and 24-hours-a-day supervision, Christine is determined that when she returns to the outside world again, she will live a productive life, one that includes her 15-year-old. 

To help pay for the exceptional treatment for Christine, the Link House, Inc., the parent organization that operates the Maris Center and other treatment programs, has again been given a challenge grant of up to $70,000 by an anonymous donor. The organization launched Drive to Thrive Matching Challenge, which continues through November. 

The same donor last spring matched contributions to Link House, Inc. in a similar challenge. That fundraising campaign netted $48,000 from large and small donors. When those donations were doubled by the match, the campaign raised $96,000. 

The private donations allowed Link House, Inc., to expand its programming to include more out-reach treatment and plan for even more innovative treatment programs for individuals struggling with substance use disorders and mental health challenges.

“I have had several calls from individuals and organizations that are excited that their contribution will be doubled,” said Dr. Gary Gastman, the Link House, Inc. executive director.

Gastman is encouraged by the amount of support for the challenge, which will end this month. “Everyday we get more donations,” he said.     

The John Ashford Link House was founded in 1972 by a group of North Shore residents to help men at a time when many Vietnam veterans were coming home with drug and alcohol issues. Link House was only the fourth licensed residential treatment program in the state.

Next year, Link House, Inc., celebrates its 50th anniversary, which Gastman wrote in this month’s newsletter he believes “will be a time of change, growth, and celebration as we look back at our 50 years and share our exciting plans for the future.”

Today, Link House, Inc., offers residential treatment in 125 beds at the Elms and Progress houses in Amesbury, the Women’s Independent Sober Housing (WISH) in Newburyport, the Maris Center and Link House. Its Center for Behavioral Health and Addiction Treatment Services, located in Amesbury, was created during the Covid pandemic and now treats hundreds of people across the region struggling with substance use and mental health issues.  

The budget for Link House, Inc., has grown in recent years from $1.3 million to $2.4 million, Gastman said. Only 2 percent come from private donations, but Gastman says those donations, while relatively small in the overall budget, allow Link House, Inc., to grow its programs and provide innovative treatments. 

The majority of funding, more than 60 percent in 2019, came from state contracts. Client treatment fees amount to 27 percent. Another 8 percent came from earned income. 

One of the program’s staunchest supporters, Marshall Jepsen said, “People struggling with substance abuse issues have a mental illness. Anything we can do to help them is good for humanity.”

Jespersen, the vice chair of the board for Link House, Inc., and chair of the board of International Cars Ltd., said clients struggling with substance abuse have tremendous potential. 

They never get over their substance abuse issues, Jespersen said. But once they escape from being trapped by their issues, they have a lot to contribute to society.

And treatment programs are far less costly than having people struggling with substance abuse arrested and incarcerated, Jespersen said.    

Christine, one of 40 women who reside at Maris for three months to as much as two years, said she loves the center. “It is a place to go and get your life back together. I didn’t know how to save myself. They show you how.”

The staff knows what their clients are going through, she said. “I think sometimes I will not tell them something, but then I realize that they’ve already been through it.” 

Residents are encouraged to fully integrate into the community through employment and community service and are required to pay a portion of their treatment fee and rent, provide their own meals and contribute to the upkeep of the center.

At Maris, Christine has a roommate in a double occupancy room. They share a kitchen, living and community rooms, a laundry, restrooms and outdoor recreational area. Residents help keep the center clean.

Calling Maris, a “No judgement zone,” Christine said, “If you need help, it’s the place to come. Link House has saved millions of lives. It is incredible.”

To learn more and donate to the Drive to Thrive Matching Challenge, visit

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