Massachusetts is observing Aug. 31 as Overdose Awareness Day – a day held to remember the lives lost to overdoses, to dispel stigma surrounding addictions and to offer hope and recognize individuals’ recovery from substance use disorder.
In observance of the day, and in memory of individuals lost due to substance use disorder, all four state-operated bridges – the Zakim, Longfellow, and Fore River bridges in Greater Boston and the Burns Bridge in Worcester – and Boston’s South Station and Government Center transit hubs will be lit up in purple, the color associated with the awareness campaign. A number of landmark locations across the Commonwealth will be illuminated purple, including municipal buildings like Boston City Hall.
Between 1999 and 2019, the opioid overdose crisis claimed nearly 500,000 lives in the United States and each day an average of 136 Americans die from an overdose on prescription pain medication, heroin, or fentanyl.
To recognize the day, Governor Baker issued a proclamation declaring August 31 Overdose Awareness Day in Massachusetts, writing in part:
“As a national public health crisis, the opioid overdose epidemic continues to devastate our communities not only through the tremendous loss of life and associated trauma to families and loved ones, but also through a profound economic strain on individuals and families in health care costs, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement …[and]…we should be encouraged to continue in our efforts to provide our loved ones, friends, coworkers, and neighbors with the support they need to overcome addiction.”
The Fiscal Year 2022 budget signed by Governor Baker last month includes a provision codifying the practice of issuing a proclamation each year for Overdose Awareness Day.
The proclamation reinforces the Baker-Polito Administration’s commitment to combatting substance use in Massachusetts, including the most recent announcement of over $30 million in state funding for regional/statewide services to provide pathways to stability and recovery for individuals facing homelessness and substance use disorders. These include $19 million for Housing First-model low-threshold permanent housing and support services in Brockton, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Quincy, Springfield, and Worcester, $3.2 million for street outreach to people experiencing homelessness and substance use disorder, and a $10 million capital fund that will increase the amount of permanent supportive housing in the Commonwealth.
To learn about addiction treatment and recovery services, visit the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website at www.mass.gov/orgs/bureau-of-substance-addiction-services.
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/.