Philly families honor lost loved ones on International Opioid Overdose Awareness Day

File photo: Shown is the Robert Indiana sculpture ''LOVE'' in Philadelphia's Love Park. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

File photo: Shown is the Robert Indiana sculpture ''LOVE'' in Philadelphia's Love Park. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

As drug overdoses deaths climb, families remember lost loved ones Wednesday on Opioid Overdose Awareness Day.

The opioid epidemic, and a growing fentanyl supply, has devastated communities and brought on a record number of deaths in the United States.

Families and communities in the Greater Philadelphia area will come together to remember and honor loved ones lost to addiction on Aug. 31.

Overdose deaths in Pennsylvania were declining in recent years, but fatal overdoses once again spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 5,400 people died last year, state data show.

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Philadelphia will mark the occasion by opening a temporary memorial garden in Center City at noon across from Love Park at Thomas Paine Plaza. Philly HEALs – a bereavement program in  the city’s Department of Public Health – will also host a month-long series of events to increase awareness about the epidemic and offer support, education, and resources to survivors and people in recovery.

Other organizations are also recognizing the day.

Prevention Point Philadelphia and community partners will hold a walk, candlelight vigil, and ceremony at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Kensington, a neighborhood that’s been hit particularly hard by the opioid epidemic.

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The walk begins at the intersection of Huntingdon Street and Kensington Avenue, and participants will walk toward McPherson Square.

The Board of Commissioners in Camden County, New Jersey, will join the county’s Addiction Awareness Task Force, activists, health providers and residents for a vigil at 7:30 p.m. at the Remembrance and Hope Memorial in Blackwood.

“Opioid use disorder is an insidious affliction that doesn’t discriminate, it’s impacting our neighbors, family members, friends and colleagues,” said Louis Cappelli Jr., county commissioner director, in a statement. “Too many innocent lives have been lost due to this disease,and this day will be used to honor and remember those who were taken from us too soon.”

Know of an event in your community for International Opioid Overdose Awareness Day? Email health reporter Nicole Leonard at nleonard@whyy.org

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24-hour hotline that offers referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Call 1-800-662-HELP for more information.

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