BPHC logoThe Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), in conjunction with Mayor Thomas M. Menino, will host a vigil tonight, August 30, at Copley Square, to remember Boston residents who have died of drug overdose, recognize those who struggle with addiction, and spread the word about how to prevent overdose.

“We want people to get the help they need to overcome addiction, but we have to get past the shame and stigma that often gets in the way,” said Mayor Menino. “The vigil is a chance for folks in the community – victims, families, friends, and advocates all coming together – to support one another and prevent these needless tragedies from happening in the future.”

“Drug abuse touches many of our city’s families, and we are dedicated to improving access to treatment and prevention programs,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, BPHC’s executive director. “By educating bystanders in the use of tools like Narcan, we’re actively saving lives. Tonight’s vigil is another opportunity to remind those struggling with addiction that they’re not alone and that we’re here to help.”

At the vigil, speakers – including Dr. Ferrer, Rep. Liz Malia, and Maryanne Frangules, executive director of Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery – will highlight the success of BPHC’s Narcan education and enrollment programs, which put a life-saving tool in the hands of individuals who are most likely to witness an overdose. Narcan, the brand name for a medication called naloxone, reverses opiode overdoses by blocking the effects of drugs such as heroin and oxycodone.  The medication is non-addictive and does not cause harm if used in error. Since 2007, the program has enrolled more than 2,500 individuals to carry Narcan in Boston, and trained thousands more in overdose prevention. To date, approximately 250 individuals in Boston were saved when their overdoses were reversed through the use of Narcan.

Held one day before International Overdose Awareness Day, the vigil comes at a time of promising news for the overdose prevention community. Earlier this month, the Massachusetts legislature approved the “Good Samaritan” legislation to help prevent overdoses. This newly passed law offers protection from drug possession charges for people who call 911 to seek emergency medical attention if they are experiencing an overdose or witness someone experiencing an overdose. In addition, last week Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Obama Administration’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, supported the expanded use of Narcan by bystanders to prevent deaths from overdose.

The vigil will be held tonight, August 30, 2012, at Copley Square from 7 to 9 p.m.