Vermont to Recognize International Overdose Awareness Day

A gathering is planned for Wednesday on the lawn of the Vermont State House

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Vermonters will come together Wednesday evening to remember relatives, friends, and neighbors who died from overdoses.

The lawn of the Vermont State House in Montpelier will be the setting for a gathering from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday August 31, marking International Overdose Awareness Day.

In 2021, the Vermont Department of Health recorded a record high number of deaths from overdoses — 215 people. Most of those cases involved fentanyl, health officials have noted.

Wednesday’s gathering is presented by the Vermont Overdose Prevention Network, and will feature guest speakers, music, poetry, free ice cream, and stories from people affected by the overdose crisis.

Kimberly Blake, who lost her son Sean to an overdose in 2017, helped organize the event through the organization Vermont Team Sharing.

"You know, the deaths, especially with fentanyl, are happening to so many people," Blake observed in an interview with NECN. "I think it’s almost impossible not to know somebody who’s been affected by this epidemic of loss, so I think just by sheer numbers, people have become more comfortable talking about it."

Blake, a physician, said she thinks society still has more work to do to break down stigma associated with substance use disorders.

Discussion of harm reduction and other policies will be a part of Wednesday’s event outside the State House, Blake indicated, but the primary aim is to give an opportunity to remember loved ones.

Many families who suffered losses have made posters displaying their loved ones’ faces, which they will bring to the commemoration of International Overdose Awareness Day, Blake said.

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