There are 2,290 flags on the campus of Newton-Wellesley Hospital, each representing a life lost to an opioid overdose in Massachusetts in 2021.
The annual “Purple Flag Event” is held in remembrance of those lives. Hospital officials also host the event to make it clear that resources and support are available, and say they hope talking about the crisis can help reduce stigma. The flags serve as a visual reminder that opioid overdoses claim thousands of lives.
“While you don’t hear about each of the losses individually, taken together we can plainly see that this is a tragedy of immense proportion that is difficult to put into words,” Newton-Wellesly Hospital President & CEO Errol R. Norwitz said.
Norwitz was joined by a group that included hospital staff who specialize in addiction recovery, outreach workers and advocacy groups, law enforcement, as well as those who have lived through overdose addiction who shared their personal stories of struggle and success. All came together to highlight the severity of the crisis and to share a message – that help is out there and work to combat the epidemic continues.
“My sincere hope is that a year from now with the help of some compassion and some hard work we will place fewer flags in this same spot,” he said.
In 2021, Massachusetts recorded 2,290 deadly opioid overdoses. That’s an increase from the 2,105 reported in 2020, 2,005 reported in 2019, 2,013 reported in 2018 and 2,006 reported in 2017.
The flags will remain on display through Monday, Sept. 26.