Locals protest the Harbor’s upcoming closure

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — In 2017, Wilmington ranked number one in the nation for opioid abuse, with some research suggesting up to 11.6% of individuals in the area were addicted.

The Harbor, Wilmington’s only state-funded detox facility, is the only place for miles addicts without health insurance can detox under medical supervision before moving on to rehab.

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“If you want to go to rehab, it’s 32, 35 thousand dollars for a 30 day program to go off to. And so that’s good if you have insurance, or your family has money,” says Patrick Hall, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department Chaplain. “But if you don’t where do you start? Harbor is free. You know, if they’ve got a bed, they’ll take you.”

In its time here, the facility has helped countless men and women one their journey to sobriety.

“You’re looking at the face of an addict,” states Tammy Lou Payne, a once patient at The Harbor. “Now, I am a productive member of society. I’m a mom. I’m a grandma. I pay my taxes. I’m out in the community. I volunteer. But on the flip side, I’ve also had a lot of pain and trauma in my life that lead me to drinking, which became a big, big problem.”

But now, it’s set to close October 23, and the fate of uninsured addicts in the area is now even more uncertain.

“And I’m afraid that there will be people in our community that die without the resources that they provide,” says Payne.

So this weekend, people of all walks of life took to the streets, protesting the building’s upcoming demolition and asking locals to join their cause.

“It’s about community awareness and making sure everybody knows as a community we’re going to be affected by this,” notes Cheryl Walters, a local health activist. “Can we come together and do something?”

Hall, a sheriff’s office chaplain, Cape Fear Baptist Church pastor, and recovered addict says over the years, he’s sent hundreds of people to the harbor to recover:

“If you meet someone and they’re starving and they’re hungry, and I want to talk to them about Jesus…what they need first is food. When I meet a heroin addict, I may invite him to church and do those things, but you know the big, the biggest problem in their life right now, we’ve got to work through is getting them off the drugs or alcohol and through this addiction.”

Though the harbor has helped many many get back on their feet and saved countless lives, without a building it will close October 23. When that happens, Wilmington could face a gap in services for those who want to recover, but don’t have the means to do so on their own.

If you’re interested in signing a petition to save The Harbor or you want to learn more, click the links.