Following 6-month extension, Wilmington detox facility’s time is up

The facility was originally supposed to close in October but a last-minute change of plans allowed RHA Health Services to continue
Updated: Apr. 13, 2021 at 3:13 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The Harbor, Wilmington’s only state-funded detox facility, is at the end of a six-month extension, and we’re being told the facility will not be able to continue offering services.

Back in August, the facility announced it would be closing its doors due to the transfer of its property by New Hanover County to NHRMC.

The facility was originally supposed to close in October but a last-minute change of plans allowed RHA Health Services, the operator of the facility, to continue.

It comes down to land – more than three years ago the county sold the land to NHRMC to allow the hospital to grow. Extensions were given to The Harbor, but WECT has been told the company will not continue to operate the facility after this month.

For people struggling with addiction without medical insurance that wanted to start recovery, The Harbor was their only option, the next closest facility for the uninsured is in Jacksonville.

Last year, after news of the facility’s closure was made public, residents and previous patients of the facility started a petition to save the facility. The detox center was given an additional six months at the end of 2020, but that extension is coming to an end.

“The Harbor, RHA Behavioral Health’s Facility-Based Crisis and Detoxification center in Wilmington, will stop taking new admissions and referrals as of Friday, April 23, 2020. For over a decade, The Harbor has provided crisis stabilization and detoxification services in a non-hospital setting for individuals who have behavioral health and substance use treatment needs,” a letter from RHA Health Services reads.

RHA will continue to offer other behavioral health services in Wilmington, according to that letter. The healthcare provider said they wanted to continue providing detox services for the community and vetted multiple locations as potential future sites, but ultimately, without additional time, “The Harbor must close.”

When asked about the extensions and the end of the lease, a NHRMC spokesperson said, “NHRMC bought the former Health Department property from New Hanover County nearly four years ago to allow for the growth in services that are needed on the main hospital campus. NHRMC has provided The Harbor an additional year and a half to find new space, starting in September 2019, including more than a year after the Health Department vacated.”

“In the fall, we offered a final six-month extension. While RHA’s recent announcement is unfortunate, we remain hopeful the community will be able to replace the services offered by The Harbor. Until then, we will work with community partners to link patients to appropriate care.”

Cheryl Walters helped create the group Save The Harbor Detox and started a petition that gained more than 20,000 supporters.

“When we started this process for Save The Harbor Detox our intention was to create community awareness around what the community offered,” she said.

“It is a huge loss if we lose this; the six-month extension is almost up. My heart is broken that this will not be an option for people, there will be no option for people that do not have insurance — I have no words,” she said.

Although New Hanover County has not owned the property for around four years, New Hanover County spokesperson Jessica Loeper did offer a statement.

“New Hanover County has been a proponent of The Harbor and its services, and we understand the value of having a facility like this to serve anyone — regardless of insurance — in times of crisis. The county is committed to support and fund mental health and substance use disorder resources for our residents. We are currently building The Healing Place, which will serve as a peer-led substance use facility for men and women that is at no-cost to the individual,” she said.

“The county has also established a $50 million Mental and Behavioral Health Fund, through proceeds from the hospital sale to Novant Health, that will be used for initiatives that expand access to mental health services independent of state assistance, fund evidence-based programs, provide capital funding for long-term treatment facilities, as well as other much-needed assistance for our residents.”

As stated, RHA will continue to offer a number of services to the community including:

· Mobile Crisis Management (MCM) – Available 24/7/365; Call 1.844.709.4097

· Open Access/Walk-in Clinic: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.

· Comprehensive Clinical Assessments

· Outpatient Therapy

· Psychiatric Evaluation and Medication Management

· Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient

· Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

· Peer Support Services

· Community Support Team

· Intensive In-home Services

· Coordinated Specialty Care (SHORE)

· Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services

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