Mass. cities recognize International Overdose Awareness Day

SALEM, Mass. — In Salem, as many cities across the state and country, overdoses related to opioids are on the rise as leaders try to combat the epidemic.

In Salem, Massachusetts there have been 110 overdoses and 10 deaths so far this year, that’s compared to 11 deaths total in 2015.

Combating opioid abuse is a year-round issue, but on Aug. 31 it gets special attention for International Overdose Awareness Day.

“It's literally like you're on high alert 24 hours a day that your loved one's going to die,” Mary Wheeler, director of the Healthy Streets Outreach program, said.

In Marlborough, Overdose Awareness Day is marked with the placing of flags, one for every overdose death in Massachusetts from the previous year.

“I want to spread awareness and help people get the message out that we have a serious epidemic and that we need to do something about it,” event organizer Kathy Leonard said.

Last year 1,256 flags were planted. This year the number was up to 1,531.

The issue is gaining national traction, and Rep. Seth Moulton said it’s time for the federal government to step up.

“We need to fund programs just like we see right here in Salem. And not all the communities that I represent have the resources to stand up and do this on their own. They need help,” he told FOX25.

Vigils will be held in several cities Wednesday night, including Salem, where the community can gather and support families dealing with opioid addiction.

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