Healey to Biden: Lower flags on Overdose Awareness Day Thursday

By MADDIE FABIAN

Staff Writer

Published: 08-30-2023 5:19 PM

BOSTON — In a letter sent to President Joe Biden, Gov. Maura Healey requested that the nation’s flags are lowered to half-staff this Thursday in observance of International Overdose Awareness Day and in honor of lives lost to drug-related deaths.

Since 1999, over 1 million people have died of drug overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Massachusetts alone has lost 22,000 people in the past decade.

According to the state Department of Public Health, Massachusetts saw 2,357 confirmed and estimated opioid deaths in 2022, an increase of 2.5% compared to 2021, with the largest increases made up by Black, non-Hispanic residents.

“We are truly in mourning — and lowering the flags on International Overdose Awareness Day will help us to honor their memories, call attention to the overdose crisis that continues to ravage our communities, and break down the stigma that prevents too many people from seeking lifesaving treatment,” Healey said in a statement.

International Overdose Awareness Day was first established in Australia in 2001, and has since grown into the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose, reduce stigma, and acknowledge the grief of millions of friends and family impacted by the crisis.

This year’s awareness day theme is “recognizing those people who go unseen,” in an effort to recognize community members affected by overdose, but whose stories remain quiet.

“By lowering flags in remembrance of these individuals, we can both honor their memories and translate grief into action,” Healey wrote in her letter.

“Families deserve comfort for loss to this crisis like any other loss due to a mass casualty,” said Joanne Peterson, founder and executive director at Learn to Cope, in a statement.

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Over the past week, local communities have held events in advance of Overdose Awareness Day.

The Holyoke Medical Center held a training session last Wednesday to educate the community on opioid overdoses, specifically the use of Narcan, a nasal spray that reverses opioid overdose.

And on Monday, Easthampton held a vigil in honor of lives lost to drug overdose.

This Thursday, on Overdose Awareness Day, Northampton will hold an event that will include speakers, a vigil, and resource tables, and will take place at Pulaski Park from 6-8 p.m.

Maddie Fabian can be reached at mfabian@gazettenet.com or on Twitter @MaddieFabian.]]>