Last Thursday Mayor Michelle Wu and the City of Boston recognize International Overdose Awareness Day by bringing attention to the opioid epidemic that continues to harm communities and devastate families. The City extends its heartfelt condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one to a fatal overdose and reaffirms its commitment to expanding access to lifesaving care and harm reduction services and dismantling the stigma associated with substance use disorders and overdose.
In recognition of National Recovery Month, which began on September 1, City Hall will be illuminated in purple this evening in honor of all the lives lost to fatal overdoses. Bridges and government buildings across the state will also be lit in purple as part of this observance. Boston is once again joining with volunteers and State partners in planting 20,000 purple flags at Boston Common to memorialize the lives lost to overdoses over the past decade.
“Today, we grieve individuals who have lost their lives to overdose, honor the resiliency of their loved ones, and celebrate those who are in recovery,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Boston will do everything we can to support residents experiencing or surviving substance use disorder toward a path of recovery and prevent the tragedies of overdose wherever possible.”
Earlier this year, the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) issued a reminder to residents about the dangers of opioid use after new data revealed a 7 percent increase in fatal overdoses in Boston in 2022. Equally concerning were the significant racial disparities in overdose deaths and how this crisis is disproportionately harming communities of color. From 2017-2021 in Boston, the leading cause of premature deaths among male Black and Latinx residents combined was accidents, with opioid overdoses accounting for most of these deaths. In 2022, 30% of all opioid-related overdose deaths were among Black individuals and 21% were among Latinx individuals. From 2020-2022, the average annual opioid overdose death rate among Black and Latinx citizens was 66% and 31% greater than white residents, respectively. The City is committed to working with government and community partners in ensuring that harm reduction, treatment, and prevention is accessible to all Bostonians.
Another key factor driving these increases is the toxic drug supply. Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, was involved in more than 90% of opioid-related deaths in both the state and among Boston residents in 2022. The increasing presence of Xylazine, an animal tranquilizer known as “tranq,” in the drug supply also heightens the overdose risk due to its oversedation effects.
“The opioid epidemic has had a profound impact on our city. Every community and neighborhood in Boston has felt the pain of a fatal overdose,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “We honor the lives tragically cut short by overdoses by continuing to provide critical lifesaving treatment and harm reduction to anyone who is struggling with substance use disorders.”
National Recovery Month serves as a platform to honor those living in recovery and underscore the programs and supports available to people experiencing substance use disorder.