months of work, the new PORT Health Services site is on the brink of
opening, and the folks behind the massive effort to bring expanded
mental health facilities to Hatteras village are planning two events to
make a grand introduction to the community.
new PORT Health services site stemmed from a grassroots movement which
was spearheaded by a Hatteras local, Wendy Stowe Sisler. Wendy lost her
31-year-old son, Cory, in December of 2017 after a long struggle with
substance abuse, and she has worked tirelessly ever since to bring
expanded and more convenient mental health services to Hatteras Island.
And it worked.
County, which owns the former and previously vacant Hatters Medical
Center in Hatteras village partnered with PORT Health earlier in 2018
to transform the abandoned building into a stand-alone mental health
services center. Before this initiative, residents in need of help had
to either head to the small shared PORT Health office in Frisco, or
more commonly, drive all the way to Nags Head or even Virginia to get
the support they needed.
after extensive renovations and planning, the PORT Health site is in
the final stages of being ready to officially open, and the primary
parties involved in the process – Wendy and Michelle Hawbaker from PORT
Health – credit the local community for the new facilities’ inevitable
right help has always come at the right time,” said Michelle, who added
that local residents stepped in to assist with all aspects of the major
renovation process, from painting to replacing cabinets. “It’s been a
lot of work, but it’s heartwarming how much the community has cared
about this [project.]”
support of the community has really been overwhelming,” said Wendy. “As
a small village, we’re really lucky to be able to do this, and that’s
all thanks to the people who helped.”
Wendy and Michelle may credit the community, (as well as each other),
for the new mental health center coming to fruition, but an outside
observer would recognize immediately that if it wasn’t for the hard
work of these dedicated women, the new PORT Health would have never
is because for the majority of 2018, and especially in the past few
weeks during the extensive renovations, the two have been working
tirelessly to transform the old medical office building into a
welcoming site with an array of local services.
really coming together,” said Michelle. “The building originally had
stark white walls and floors – it was very clinical. We wanted it to be
nice and welcoming instead – a place where people would feel
“This disease is a horrible one,” said Wendy. “If people can come into a warm spot and feel safe, it’s a big deal.”
with a basically blank canvas, Wendy and Michelle teamed up to install
both practical and personal touches, from new bookshelves and IT
equipment, to local artworks that were donated by the generous island
found ample opportunities along the way to cut costs and fund the
project, too. Michelle of PORT Health saved several thousand dollars on
repainting the interior by simply doing it herself, while Wendy raised
an estimated $21,500 by sharing her personal story, and asking the
community for donations.
the new PORT Health Services in Hatteras opens, it will offer
individual therapy, group therapy, and telemedicine services for
patients. However, plans are already in the works through potential
grants to boost these service in the future. Ideally, Michelle sees
adding a staff nurse to the team, as well as a Peer Support Specialist
– a person who is in recovery and who has special training and inherent
insight to assist others in need of support.
the meantime, everyone in the community is invited to the two upcoming
events on November 24 and November 28 to take a peek and see what their
hard work, donations, and other contributions have created.
first event is on Saturday, November 24, and is a Hatteras Island
Community Celebration in memory of Cory Sisler, which will feature a
tour or the new PORT office location, live music by Rory Kelleher, and
a pig pickin’ for everyone who wants to stop by.
party on Saturday is just that – a party for the people in the
community,” said Michelle. “There’s no way this would have happened
without Wendy, and without the community support.”
event is so the community can find out what we’re all about and what
we’re doing, and the services we offer,” said Wendy. “This is for our
second event is on Wednesday, November 28, and will likely feature a
ribbon cutting ceremony, as well as an opportunity for the public to
both tour the facilities, and meet the staff and PORT team members.
are still a few finishing touches to be completed before PORT Health
can officially open, but thanks to Wendy, Michelle, and the community
as a whole, both Hatteras and Ocracoke islanders now have a convenient
and central location to get help if they need it – without an hours’
long ferry ride, or long drive off the island.
that development, as well as the community’s assistance in mitigating a
stigma that used to accompany substance abuse issues, is a huge
accomplishment that has the potential to help countless island
residents across the board.
is a great community, because the people here want to help – they want
people to have access to [these services], and to get better,” said
Michelle. “If we’re willing to talk about it without the stigma, people
will get help and will get better, and will be even more willing to
talk and spread the word.”
“Essentially, it becomes a positive cycle instead of a vicious cycle,”
she added, “and we hope this will turn into a positive cycle of healing
for the community.”
How to Attend
The Hatteras Island Community Celebration in Memory of Cory Sisler will
be held on Saturday, November 24, from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. at the new
PORT Health services at 57635 Highway 12, Hatteras village.
The Open House and Meet & Greet will be held on Wednesday, November
28 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the new PORT Health Services. For
questions about attending either event, call 252-441-2324
How to Help
Monetary donations as well as donated local artworks are still needed for the new Port Health Services office!
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 Cory 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.