Merchants in Makawao hang purple lights for International Overdose Awareness Day
About 25 merchants in Makawao have hung purple lights in observance of International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31. The goal is to spread the message that overdose death is preventable.
Linda Vincent of Kula spearheaded the project to honor her son, Peter, who died on Aug. 12, 2019 of an accidental opioid overdose at age 39.
“I first learned of International Overdose Awareness Day when the Mayor of Honolulu sent a picture of their government buildings with purple lights to our family,” she said. “It was so touching to me as a way to honor my son and all of those who have died from this preventable disease.”
Vincent organized a similar project in her former home of Rhinebeck and Redhook, N.Y. in 2020 and 2021.
For the event in Makawao, the first observance of the global event on Maui, Vincent supplied the purple lights, #EndOverdose cards and lanterns.
“If we keep the social dialogue alive about substance abuse disorder, we can reduce the stigma around this chronic condition, and make way for more supportive models that not only assist those searching for rehabilitation, but also for the family and friends who are affected,” she said.
Jennie Spenser, owner of Collections in Makawao, is participating in the project. She said: “I was surprised to hear how the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] reported 107,622 people died from overdoses in 2021. I’m grateful we can help remember those who died and raise funds for Maui Behavioral Health Resources.”
Maui Behavioral Health Resources is the umbrella organization for the non-profits Aloha House, Malama Family Recovery Center and Maui Youth & Family Services. The agencies have programs in Makawao, and throughout central Maui, that help adults and youth with mental health and substance use issues.
Wade Maede, Acting Assistant Chief of Police of Maui, said the Maui Police Department is committed to reducing deaths by providing each officer with a Narcan kit. Narcan is a medicine that is an antidote to opioid drugs.
“We will continue to educate the public on the dangers of opioids and other narcotics, so no family has to suffer losing a loved one again,” he said. “Together, we can make a difference.”
More than 200 million opioid painkiller prescriptions are written annually in the United States and more than 80 Americans are dying every day from opioid overdose, according to Michael Greger, MD.
Opioid overdoses continue to rise across the nation and the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase in the number of fatal and nonfatal overdoses.
The International Overdose Awareness Day began in 2001 in Australia by SJ Finn who was managing a needle and syringe program at The Salvation Army Crisis Centre in St. Kilda, Victoria. It has been run by the Penington Institute since 2012.