SPRINGFIELD — Behavioral Health Network Inc. (BHN) is holding an agency-wide Ceremony of Remembrance in observance of International Overdose Awareness Day on Thursday, Aug. 31 at 10 a.m. at 395 Liberty St. in Springfield.
The event will include spoken remarks and a period of silent reflection. Purple flags will be placed on BHN’s Liberty Street, Carlson Recovery Center, and Greenfield campuses to show support and commemorate those who have lost their lives to drug overdose.
Observed every year on Aug. 31, International Overdose Awareness Day seeks to create a better understanding of overdose, reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths, and create change that reduces the harms associated with drug use.
“By coming together to remember loved ones lost or injured due to overdose, we stand together to raise awareness, help reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths, and spread hope to those battling addiction and in recovery,” BHN President and CEO Steve Winn said.
Overdose rates have skyrocketed nationally in the last 25 years. In 2021, provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated 107,622 drug-overdose deaths, an increase of 15% from 2020.
In Massachusetts, there were 2,310 confirmed opioid-related deaths in 2022. Just 10 years prior, in 2012, there were 733 opioid-related deaths. In the four Western Mass. counties, there were 339 opioid-related deaths in 2022 (227 in Hampden County, 48 in Berkshire County, 37 in Hampshire County, and 27 in Franklin County).
According to Dr. Ruth Potee, medical director for substance-use disorders at BHN, “the most important step to reduce overdoses is to make treatment with methadone and buprenorphine highly available in all communities. The work that BHN has done to reduce barriers and to improve transitions from jail to continued treatment has really shifted the overdose rates in our region.”