By Beth Treffeisen
As trucks were being filled with numerous donations to be sent down to help Houston, a different somber crowd descended on City Hall Plaza to mark the start of Overdose Awareness Month in the City of Boston.
Together, Mayor Martin Walsh, the Office of Recovery Services and other community leaders gathered for a candlelight vigil to mark National Overdose Awareness Day and remember those who are lost, the families who are affected and give a voice to those still in recovery.
“This is a terrible disease,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “I’ve spent my entire career as an elected official figuring out a way for more funding and better programming.”
He continued, “We are not all here as elected officials or candidates today. We are here because we are people who care about other people. We want to make sure to continue moving forward and fight for what we believe in.”
There were 202 overdose deaths in the City of Boston last year. Four in 10 Massachusetts residents know someone who has misused prescription painkillers in the past five years. In the Commonwealth, there are about six opioid-related deaths every day.
“We have had an epidemic here in Boston for some time now,” said Walsh. “The death rate has gone down a little each year but I wouldn’t see this as a sign of progress…we need to let people know that it is ok to need help. Our doors are open.”
Small white candles were given out to those in attendance at the event, but because it was still light out Father Joseph M. White asked that they continue their remembrance later into the evening and light them when it becomes dark.
Angela Kelly took to the podium to speak about her brother, Jonathon Kelly who passed away last year at the age 25 from the disease.
“I know that all of the people that we remember today were people. People we loved dearly and will always love; people with unique stories and difficult journeys. People with big dreams they didn’t get to fulfill; people whose memories motivate us to help others find wellness and go against the odds,” said Kelly.
She continued, “Through my brother’s long struggle of alcoholism and heroin addiction as well as his many triumphs and tyrants, he taught our family so much.”
Her brother was a gifted artist that made sculptures, stained glass, and filled sketchbooks with drawings and was a musician.
Through the Opioid Project, that works to change perceptions through art and storytelling in community-based workshops and art exhibitions a painting will be put on display in his honor at Boston City Hall this month.
“Together lets raise our voices and lift up hope and widen the circle of compassion and deepen our paths to healing,” said Kelly. “For those of you who have lost someone or are still in recovery – we are never alone.”
There are a number of events scheduled throughout the month of September that aim to combat social stigma, celebrate recovery, and promote overall awareness. A list of some of the events can be found below:
Substance Use Recovery 101 Listen and Learn Brownbag Lunch Series will take place at City Hall, Room 801, Thursdays in September (7,14,21, 28) from 12 – 1 p.m.
Boston Fire Department FAITH (Fighting Addiction in the Hub) Conference will take place at Florian Hall, September 15 from 8 – 1p.m.
Second Annual Citywide 5k Walk for Recovery will begin at the DCR Artesani/ Herter Park on September 16 from 9 – 12:30 p.m.
MOAR and BSAS Recovery Day will take place at City Hall Plaza. A march will go down to Faneuil Hall were programs will take place on September 20 from 9 – 3 p.m.
September City Hall Art Galleries that will happen all month long at Boston City Hall. It will feature “The Opioid Project” by Annie Brewster and Nancy Marks on the second floor Mayor’s Neighborhood Gallery. On the fifth floor, “When Women Succeed: The Quilted Path” by L’Merchie Frazier will be on display. All are welcome to visit.