an old saying that “it takes a village,” but sometimes a strong
individual can get the ball rolling to make a big mark on the community.
are in the works to install a new substance abuse and mental health
services center in the former medical building in Hatteras village, and
many of the parties involved credit the development of the fast-moving
plans to a Hatteras local, Wendy Stowe Sisler.
Wendy lost her son, Cory Stowe Sisler, in December of 2017 after a long struggle with addiction. Corey was 31-years-young.
the weeks and months since, Wendy has spearheaded a movement which is
grounded in social media to raise awareness and funds for island locals
struggling with addiction, and to get much-needed and expanded mental
health and substance abuse services on Hatteras Island.
And it’s working.
PORT Health Services shares a small office in Frisco next to the
Sheriff’s office where they provide some services for local
individuals. But for the most part, folks have to travel up the beach
to Nags Head and to PORT Health’s larger office to get in-depth care
the near future, however, PORT Health is planning to move to the
northern end of the medical building in the center of Hatteras village,
which will make services more comprehensive, and more accessible.
couple of things came together at the same time for this to happen,”
says Michelle Hawbaker from PORT Health. “We have had services out of
the [Dare County] Health Dept. in Frisco for some time, but there isn’t
adequate space for all the services we wanted. We were looking for
someplace so we could expand our services, and the Hatteras Medical
Center became available.”
from the tri-villages can get to us in [Nags Head], but it’s much
harder for people in the southern villages,” she says. “Also, this
location has more space, so we can have group therapy, expand our
psychiatry services, and try to incorporate some community recovery
support services and activities.”
is short term, and recovery requires a lifetime,” she adds. “Hopefully
there will be activities that aren’t time limited, but will support
people: AA, NA – they will be welcome to have meetings there, and there
can be other programs too. Having that support in your own community –
that could make a big difference.”
addition to the center itself, PORT Health is receiving donations
thanks to Wendy’s efforts, which will be put back into the community in
whichever way is needed most.
is a big hurdle on the island that can be overcome with the funds, but
so is general awareness and bringing the local addiction problem to
light – two additional non-monetary issues that Wendy is helping as
think her assistance and support has been critical in a couple ways,”
says Michelle. “She has raised funds to help us do things we couldn’t
do otherwise, and to allow people to participate in treatments. And her
willingness to put her tragedy out there for people has done amazing
things to break the stigma, and bring the issue to the forefront.”
affects everyone, and it’s not a negative reflection on the family and
loved ones,” she adds. “I admire her for being able to stand up and
share her experience. She wants to make things easier, and better, and
I think she’s doing just that.”
Currently, the lease for PORT Health to use the site is being finalized, according to Dare County Manager Bobby Outten.
the medical building is a county property, a lease needs to be in place
and approved by all parties, and once that occurs, there is a 30-day
advertisement – or notice – where the public can comment on the project
if they would like. After the 30 days are up, it will go before the
Dare County Board of Commissioners (BOC) for final approval.
a three step process – complete the document, advertise it, and then
get the Board of Commissioners’ approval,” says Outten. “It will most
likely come up [for approval by the BOC] as early as the second meeting
anticipate no issues with this at all,” said Dare County Commissioner
Vice Charman Wally Overman in an email. “…We are all looking forward to
PORT moving into this facility in Hatteras to provide their much-needed
services on Hatteras Island.”
It’s a feeling that’s shared among many.
excited about it,” says Lois Miller of Yellow House Ministry of
Hatteras Island, which is a local organization that has been working
with substance abuse with young people and families since 2005.
you have issues, it’s difficult to go get help when the Sheriff’s
office is right next to you,” she says, referring to the current small
space in Frisco. “This is more private. Wendy Stowe has played a huge
role in making this happen, and this is a big positive step for
House Ministry is one of the local organizations that will likely
partner with the new mental health center in the future. “The part we
probably will play is when someone comes to us with a problem, we will
direct them there, which we have been doing all along,” says Lois.
“Sometimes therapy works better than going to rehab.”
the sheer number of options that will be available to other
organizations and community members who want to contribute will be
plentiful. Source Church in Manteo and HighLife252 – which provides a
number of services like HIV testing – have both been floated as
possible partners in the months and years to come.
really like to be able to utilize the space to support people and
organizations who are strengthening the recovery process on a local
level,” says Michelle of PORT Health. “A couple people said they would
be glad to come down and bring services to the island, and I think
together we can be pretty impactful with everybody doing their part.”
One thing that everyone attests is that the new center is needed.
think we are in desperate need of it – we have lost a lot of children
down here,” says Wendy Stowe Sisler. “Currently, our children have to
go to Nags Head, and often [multiple] times per week. They can’t work,
they can’t have a life – they need help, but it takes a lot to get that
help. It’s a catch 22.”
continual goal is to raise both awareness and funds, and she has raised
thousands of dollars so far which will stay in the local community, and
which will be used in whatever way is needed. “The money is going to go
to the children and people of Hatteras Island,” she says. “It could be
transportation, could be for appointments, or rehab, or medications -
There’s a lot of reasons why we need donations.”
And though Wendy is fairly new to the cause, her efforts are being noticed.
never done anything like this, but the support from the community has
been overwhelming,” she says. “My mission is to keep going.”
is planning on attending the next Dare County Board of Commissioners
meeting in March, and sharing her story and her efforts in the public
comment period. “It would be wonderful if we could get attendance, and
get people to show up for the meeting.”
it’s doubtful that there will be any voices against the new mental
health and substance abuse center. After all, it’s widely recognized
that it’s something he island needs, and as word spreads, that
conversation seems to be getting louder.
something that I feel has to be done, and it will be done. The harder
we push, the sooner we will get it,” says Wendy. “It’s been a tough
road, but sometimes it takes something difficult to make changes, and
this is a good change for our community.”
year from now, I want to sit back and say that everyone in Hatteras
Island is aware that we’re there, services are available, and there are
means to get there. That’s the goal right now,” says Michelle. “I want
everyone to know that there are people who are going to help you, and
it’s a safe place to go.”
How you can help:
Web page donations can be accepted through www.porthealth.org. Click “About Donations” or mail a donation to: PHS PO Box 565, Nags Head 27959
*Please note: It is very important that you notate Corey Sisler on your donation for these funds to be earmarked to fund Hatteras Island Mental Health and Addiction Services.
PORT is a 501(c)3 and donations are tax deductible.
can also share Wendy’s story and social media post online, and attend
the next Board of Commissioners meeting in March to show your support.