The old health unit building at 218 N. Franklin St. in Bastrop has been given new life as the home of Bastrop's Hope Peer Support Group. A ribbon cutting was hosted yesterday afternoon by the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce, the Extra Mile and Northeast Delta Human Services Authority to celebrate the opening of the center.

According to Dr. Monteic A. Sizer, executive director of Northeast Delta HSA, the staff at peer support centers, such as the Hope Peer Support Group, have unique insight into the needs of others because they have progressed through traditional treatment and are certified as peer support specialists by the state of Louisiana.

"When you connect traditional services with peer support services," Sizer said, "these are services that are led by and self-determined by people who have gone through services and are in a position now to help other people go through and get stabilized.

"We are all about that. We are also about making sure that people have a job and are working. As you can see, our consumers are leaders, they are staff directors, they are supervisors. We want the area to know that just because you have a substance abuse issue or a health issue it doesn't mean you can't be productive as long as you are getting treatment."

During the ceremony, Mayor Arthur E. Jones used his comments to draw a parallel between the center's goal of providing hope and the hope that seeing a previously empty building repurposed provides to the city.

"I am very happy to see a ribbon cutting," Jones said. "A ribbon cutting usually means new life, new hope. Just by cutting a ribbon, it means that Bastrop is coming back. We have hope, and we are trying to move on to the future."

Dorothy Ford, executive director of the Bastrop/Morehouse Chamber of Commerce also spoke about how the center can enhance the community.

"They are going to be a tremendous asset to this community and to the entire parish by giving resources and help to people who have mental health and substance abuse issues," Dorothy Ford, "You are going to be able to give them hope for a very rich life and for a brighter future...the name of your business fits perfectly."

Northeast Delta HSA plans to place additional Hope Centers throughout the 12 parishes of northeast Louisiana.