Mayor Michelle Wu on last Wednesday recognized International Overdose Awareness Day, which raises awareness about overdoses in Boston and honors the memory of Bostonians who have died from substance use disorder. Acknowledging this public health issue can reduce the stigma for those who grieve or are currently experiencing the substance use disorder.
In recognition of Overdose Awareness Day and National Recovery Month this September, Boston City Hall was lit purple. State bridges and state government buildings were also illuminated to honor those who have died from substance use disorder, as well as those in recovery.
The City of Boston joined families and volunteers and planted 20,000 purple flags on the Boston Common, each representing a person who has died from an overdose in the Commonwealth over the last 10 years.
“Building a city for everyone means ensuring that every person impacted by substance use is connected to city services and has a path to a stable recovery and housing,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “As we mark International Overdose Awareness Day, we will continue to drive this critical work forward across every neighborhood. I’m grateful to all of our partners in public health and public safety working collaboratively every day to lower barriers and increase access to services.”
The City continues to experience the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its convergence with the opioid epidemic. The pandemic disrupted treatment and the drug supply, resulting in increased risk of fatal overdose. State officials are seeing fentanyl involved in 93% of fatal overdoses. Opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts increased by 8.8% in 2021 compared to 2020, and exacerbated inequities among our Black and Latinx neighbors.
“As we acknowledge International Overdose Awareness Day, we must recognize the heroic actions of outreach workers and first responders who have reversed countless overdoses and saved many lives during the past year,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “Expanding access to life-saving harm reduction services like Naloxone (Narcan) will continue to be a priority in our public health approach to addressing the needs of individuals living with substance use disorders in Boston.”
Mayor Wu with support from the City Council committed $6 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to address substance use disorder through the creation of new programs such as neighborhood engagement teams, low-barrier daytime spaces, and low-threshold transitional housing. Under Mayor Wu’s leadership, Boston developed a long-term strategic outlook and enhanced its Coordinated Response Team made up of over ten city departments which respond to acute needs related to substance use and homelessness.
Observed every September, National Recovery Month provides an opportunity to celebrate individuals living in recovery and to raise awareness about the services and supports available to people experiencing substance use disorder.
Through the Boston Public Health Commission’s Office of Recovery Services, the Mayor’s Office is partnering across departments and neighborhoods to support the following activities and community events this September:
• Tipping the Pain Scale Documentary – A collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture and Boston Public Library to show the documentaryTipping the Pain Scale about the opioid epidemic and featuring frontline work in Boston. September 26th.
• Recovery Day – Statewide celebration of recovery taking place at Faneuil Hall. September 29th.
• Rainy Day Poems – Poems about resilience and hope painted on Boston sidewalks that appear during the rain. Ongoing event.
• City Hall Art Exhibit – Featuring art from a comic book teaching teens about opioids. Opens September 15.
• Events Calendar – Lifting up events and activities happening across the City. Ongoing throughout September.
To learn more about recovery services and where to find help, call 311 or visit the website www.Boston/Recovery. The City of Boston provides referrals to treatment, residential programming, overdose prevention training, among other services.
If you suspect someone has overdosed, you should call 9-1-1 immediately. Fatal overdoses are preventable through harm reduction and education. Outreach workers from the Boston Public Health Commission routinely reverse anywhere between one to four opioid-related overdoses per day by administering naloxone (Narcan) and have saved countless lives to date. The Commission also offers programs that train opioid users, families, and providers how to prevent, recognize, and intervene during a drug overdose using naloxone. For more information regarding the training programs, please contact the BPHC overdose prevention program at 617-534-7842 or by visiting boston.gov/recovery.