Baker declares August 31 Overdose Awareness Day, marks lives lost

Governor Charlie Baker has declared August 31 Overdose Awareness Day in Massachusetts. The announcement was made during a memorial service at Boston Common on Monday.

Baker delivered the physical proclamation to the mother of Courtney Gill, who recently died of an opioid overdose. He spoke with Cathy Gill and others who have been personally affected by overdose deaths before joining the planting of purple flags on Boston Common to commemorate the 20,000 lives lost to drug overdoses. drugs in Massachusetts from 2011 to 2021.

Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and Massachusetts Department of Public Health Substance Abuse Services Director Deirdre Calvert joined Baker at the memorial.

In Massachusetts, the number of opioid-related deaths from January 2022 to March 2022 is expected to be 551, according to the Department of Public Health. For the whole of 2021, the number of deaths would have increased to 2,290, an increase of 8.8% compared to 2020.

At Baker’s proclamation, he writes that “the overdose epidemic continues to devastate our communities not only through loss of life and associated trauma for families and loved ones, but also through profound economic pressure on individuals and families in terms of costs health care, lost productivity, drug treatment and criminal justice involvement.

Cathy Gill, Courtney’s mother, says her daughter died of an accidental opioid overdose on April 1. “Our approach since Courtney’s death has been to work on de-stigmatization. We have been very open about his struggle with addiction, the cause of his death, and the impact it had on our family.

Governor Charlie Baker speaks to families who have lost loved ones to drug overdoses.

Haley Lerner / GBH News

Gill says her daughter was a talented, smart and athletic person who was well on her way to a career as a dental assistant.

“She felt good about herself. But the addiction battle is one that no matter how hard she worked, she just fought. And she passed away a week before her 30th birthday party,” Gill said. “We had planned a family party. She had bought a new dress. She had told me the day before she died what cake she wanted.

Calvert, of the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, has been a close friend of Gill and her family for decades.

“I am recovering. I’ve been in recovery for 11 years,” Calvert said. “And we have to put a face to the fact that it’s not just the Mass people. and Cass – there are many, many of us. And they also deserve love, respect and care just like anyone else.

Justin Alves, a Boston Medical Center nurse who works with HIV-positive patients, attended the memorial and says addiction is an illness he constantly encounters in his work.

“I lose patients more often than I care to admit,” Alves said. “And I think being here is an easy way for me to kind of take a minute and remember all of these people that I’ve lost, especially this year and especially since the pandemic started.

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