More than 22,000 purple flags on Boston Common, as Massachusetts officials recognize International Overdose Awareness Day


More than 22,000 purple flags have been planted on Boston Common to memorialize the Massachusetts residents who died from overdoses over the last decade, as officials on Thursday recognized International Overdose Awareness Day and brought attention to the opioid epidemic.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported 2,357 opioid-related overdose deaths across the Bay State last year, the highest-ever rate and 3% higher than 2021 overdose deaths. The larger purple flags planted on Boston Common represent the 2,357 people who died last year.

“22,000 flags. Each one represents a child, a parent, sibling or spouse taken by the overdose epidemic,” Gov. Maura Healey tweeted. “On Overdose Awareness Day, we recommit to reversing this heartbreaking trend and paving a path to recovery for everyone in need.”

Healey issued a proclamation declaring Aug. 31 as Overdose Awareness Day in Massachusetts. The commemorative flags, along with resource tables offering harm reduction, addiction prevention, and recovery support resources, will remain in place on the Common through Labor Day.

“The purple flags on the Boston Common and in cities and towns across Massachusetts are stark and poignant reminders that behind each flag — behind each overdose death — is a person who once lived, who was part of a family, part of a community, a friend, a colleague,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kate Walsh said in a statement.

“And sadly, these overdose deaths have impacted communities of color at an even greater rate,” Walsh added.

Earlier this year, the Boston Public Health Commission issued a reminder to residents about the dangers of opioid use after new data revealed a 7% increase in fatal overdoses in Boston last year.

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