In recognition of Overdose Awareness Day, an annual observance in Massachusetts and around the world, Governor Charlie Baker, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, Department of Public Health Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Barrelle, DPH Director of Bureau of Substance Addiction Services Deirdre Calvert, and other state and local officials on Monday joined families, friends, and volunteers in planting 20,000 flags on Boston Common, signifying the Massachusetts residents who died as a result of drug overdose in the past 10 years. The Baker-Polito Administration also issued a proclamation declaring Aug. 31 Overdose Awareness Day across the Commonwealth.
The purple flags were planted at the Common’s Liberty Mall in front of the State House to honor and remember individuals who lost their lives to overdose, acknowledge the loss felt by family and friends, raise awareness, and remove the stigma of drug-related deaths. An information booth was set up to offer addiction prevention and recovery support resources.
Following the planting of the flags, a moment of silent reflection was observed. In addition to the flag display, several state bridges and buildings are being lit up in purple. Other statewide events and vigils are planned and can be found at https://sadod.org/ioad-events.
Overdose Awareness Day is followed by Recovery Month, a national observance held in September to promote hope and recovery from addiction. Recovery Month celebrations and events will be held across the state. For information about these events, visit www.MOAR.org.
The Baker-Polito Administration remains focused on the opioid epidemic and continues to invest millions of dollars to expand a wide range of harm reduction, substance use awareness, treatment intervention, and recovery services. The Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Baker last month invests $597.2 million in total funding for a wide range of services that support individuals struggling with substance addiction and programs that work to prevent substance addiction through education, prescription monitoring, and more. This historic investment represents a fourfold investment in state funding to tackle the addiction crisis since 2015.
DPH has also expanded harm reduction programs as part of its overall overdose prevention efforts, including low-threshold housing (transitional and permanent), post-overdose support teams for overdose survivors, and mobile addiction services to improve access to treatment.
To learn more about Massachusetts’ efforts to reduce addiction and prevent stigma, visit www.mass.gov/opioids.
If you or a friend or family member is struggling with substance use, please call the Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline at 800-327-5050, or visit https://helplinema.org/.