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Wall Township honors those lost to overdoses with purple flags

More than 1,500 purple flags have been placed at the Wall Township Municipal Building to raise awareness of the challenges of substance abuse.

News 12 Staff

Aug 30, 2020, 2:04 PM

Updated 1,366 days ago

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More than 1,500 purple flags have been placed at the Wall Township Municipal Building to raise awareness of the challenges of substance abuse.

Today marks International Overdose Awareness Day, where people remember those who have lost their lives due to overdoses.

A total of 1,595 purple flags were placed in Wall Township by the organization "Recovery Advocates For The Shore" (RAFTS), to represent each overdose fatality in New Jersey from January to the end of June this year.

The number of overdose deaths from the end of June to the end of July has increased by nearly 240. From March to May, opioid overdose deaths increased by 20% and continue to grow during the pandemic.

Hardships related to substance abuse are nothing new to Manchester resident Heather McGovern.

Her father battled alcoholism for over 30 years, losing the battle in 2011. Her 27-year-old son Adrian died from an overdose of a mixture of heroin and fentanyl in March 2018.

"I actually was in denial and I kept on going. I was at work and I kept on going, I just did my job and didn't really deal with it," McGovern says.
She says it was life-altering moment, one of many challenges she faced compounded with a knee injury, forcing her to end her career.
McGovern says, "I picked up alcohol and I decided that was the solution at the time, it brought me to the darkest point of my life."

She fortunately found sobriety in RAFTS. She now helps others while reflecting on the loss of her son and the thousands lost in the Garden State this year.

"It's not about crying, it's about honoring him, and making sure that that I make a difference in other people's lives," McGovern says. "We're in this together. New Jersey is in this together."

RAFTS will provide an opportunity for people to write tributes to their loved ones who died of an overdose today at Saint Dennis Star of the Sea in Manasquan from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. A $20 donation is requested.

September marks National Recovery Month, which aims to spread education about how substance-use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use problems to live healthy and rewarding lives.
"It's very emotional and all about love, number one," says Kevin Murphy, of Recovery Advocates. "It's about healing, it's about awareness and it's about recovery, and it's about recovery for the families as well. It's a family disease and a family crisis."


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