BOSTON – On August 29, Boston Medical Center joined the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and state officials to plant 20,000 flags on Boston Common in recognition of Overdose Awareness Day. Staff of the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center, along with families, friends, and volunteers, planted the purple flags, each signifying a life lost to overdose in the Commonwealth over the past 10 years, and observed a moment of silent observance and reflection.

“At this time of year, we pause to remember each person who lost their life to the disease of addiction. Fatal overdoses have hit record numbers in the US–harm reduction services need to be part of the continuum of care by providing access to clean supplies, naloxone, treatment on demand, and behavioral health services with compassion and dignity,” said Colleen LaBelle, MSN, director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Training and Technical Assistance program and director of the Office Based Addiction Treatment (OBAT) Clinic at Boston Medical Center. “This event and others throughout Recovery Month give us a chance to educate the public as we work to dismantle the misconceptions and judgements that surround this issue.”

The purple flags were planted at Liberty Mall in front of the Statehouse to allow people to visit, reflect, and remember the lives lost in the Commonwealth. Information and resources are also available on overdose prevention, naloxone access, resources, and ways to access addiction treatment.

“It is extremely important to spread awareness that there are organizations and resources available to those who need them, especially since feelings of hopelessness and helplessness are common,” said Miriam Komaromy, MD, medical director of the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center. “At the Grayken Center, we understand that every experience is different–we are here to support everyone who struggles with substance use, no matter where they are on their recovery journey. Our hearts break for everyone who has lost their life in this struggle.”

“Overdose Awareness Day is an essential acknowledgement of every person who has lost their life to the disease of addiction and the families and friends left behind,” said Eilene Grayken, who, with her husband John Grayken, helped establish the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center in 2017 with their generous philanthropic gift. “It is also an important reminder of those who are suffering now and the need to improve access to healthcare that treats substance use as a critical disease like any other.”

The transport bridge at Boston Medical Center will be lit in purple for the rest of the week as well, along with several state bridges and buildings. Overdose Awareness Day on August 31 is followed by Recovery Month, a national observance held in September to promote hope and recovery from addiction. Recovery Month events will be held across the state. For information about these events, visit

To learn more about Massachusetts’ efforts to reduce addiction and prevent stigma, visit

Media Contact:

Please reach out to the Boston Medical Center Media Relations team with any questions.


Return to BMC News