PORTLAND, Maine — Next weekend, members of Maine’s recovery community will come together in honor of ‘Black Balloon Day.’
Every year on March 6, people around the country recognize the day and remember those loved ones lost to a drug-related overdose.
2020 was the deadliest year so far for overdoses in Maine with 503 deaths.
According to Maine’s Director of Opioid Response, the number is so high for two reasons: the dangerous, synthetic opiate – fentanyl – being laced in other drugs and isolation from the pandemic.
"You don't get to meet people and shake hands and exchange phone numbers... or hug... hugging is so huge," Ryan Paige said. Paige is part of the Maine Recovery Advocacy Program.
He and Zoe Brokos, the Director of Portland's Church of Safe Injection are just two of the many faces expected to be in attendance.
"Helping people stay safe and maintain access to resources and get connected to recovery treatment services when they're ready is really challenging right now," Brokos said.
Brokos said she and her team will be providing Naloxone training to anyone interested on site. The event will take place Saturday, March 6 at Portland's East End beach from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"There will be food, there will be entertainment and there will be connection, which is the most important thing," Paige said.
Paige said there will also be a slideshow honoring those lives lost to addiction in 2020 and beyond.
"The video is going to bring awareness in memory of those who we've lost but also to show that people aren't alone," Paige said. "It's not something that you have to hide anymore."