BOSTON (WWLP) – Communities around the state honored International Overdose Awareness Day Thursday, including a remembrance event on the Boston Common.

August 31st marks the day when those who have lost their lives to overdoses are remembered, without stigma or shame. It is also a way to raise awareness of the drug epidemic in our country.

Thursday lawmakers, community leaders, and residents gathered on Boston Common to remember those who died fighting substance use disorder and to make sure they are never forgotten. It is also a day where loved ones can share their collective grief.

On Tuesday, Governor Maura Healey sent a letter to President Biden requesting that he lower flags to half-mast today in observance of Overdose Awareness Day. However, that call went unanswered.

Thursday’s event was solemnly filled with commitment to affect change. In remembrance, 22,000 flags were planted creating a sea of purple, symbolizing the people who have died in the Bay State due to an overdose since 2011. An emotional Governor Healey spoke to those who have endured the pain of losing a loved one.

“So, today is about the families, today is about the families, every day it’s about the families, it’s what drives our policy making, it’s what drives our rule making, our action, it’s what drove litigation and I am just grateful to each and every one of the families who are with us today in person and in spirit,” remarked the Governor.

Since 1999, more than 1 million Americans have lost their lives to an overdose and in 2022 alone, Massachusetts lost 2,357 residents. Just this week, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts announced that they will cover the overdose reversal drug known as Narcan as a no cost share to members.