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Portland holds week-long vigil, training sessions for Overdose Awareness Day

On Monday, the lights on Portland City Hall will be purple in remembrance of those lost to overdose.
Credit: Portland Press Herald
People at a candlelight vigil in Monument Square remember those lost to drug overdoses, during Portland’s fourth annual Overdose Awareness Night in 2017.

PORTLAND, Maine — Monday, August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day—a global event held each year since 2001 that seeks to raise awareness of overdose, reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths, and remember those who have died or suffered injury from a drug overdose.

According to the Maine Attorney General’s Office most recent drug death report, Maine has seen a 23 percent increase in overdose deaths in the first quarter of 2020 with 127 deaths. In 2019, there were 380 overdose deaths in Maine; 82 percent involved at least one opioid.

Worldwide, an estimated 585,000 people died as a result of drug use in 2017, according to the 2019 World Drug Report.

In recognition of the awareness day, the City of Portland is holding a week-long vigil in remembrance of those lost to overdose. Beginning Monday at noon, the City says a memorial wall will be constructed by a group of young men who live locally at a recovery residence. The wall is designed to celebrate and honor lives lost to overdose in the community with photos, artwork, and written messages.

RELATED: Drug deaths increase in Maine during first quarter of 2020

The wall will be placed at the India Street Public Health Center in Portland. Community members are invited to view and contribute to the wall through Friday, Sept. 4. Signage will ask that people use a single-use pre-packaged kit, supplied by Public Health Division staff, to mount their artwork or photos and add their loved one’s name(s). The wall will be protected by a weatherproof canopy.

On Monday, the lights on Portland City Hall will be purple in remembrance.

Throughout the week, the India Street Public Health Center will be open for community members to receive naloxone and training on overdose response, which is free and open to the public. The center will be open for these services Aug. 31 through Sept. 4 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A virtual Overdose Response Training session hosted by the Public Health Division will be held on Sept. 2 at 12 p.m. The one-hour training session, held in collaboration with Spurwink, is free and open to the public.

The training session includes information about the signs and symptoms of opioid overdose and how laypeople can respond with naloxone. Naloxone is the antidote used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose and restore breathing. Naloxone is available at a pharmacy or with a doctor’s prescription and is also available at India Street Public Health Center and other local organizations as part of the State of Maine’s Opioid Response Plan supported by Governor Mills.

“This rise in opioid overdose deaths is a reminder to the community that this public health crisis continues to require collaboration and resources,” the City said in a release.

For more information on community naloxone trainings, visit the City of Portland website.