Traveling overdose memorial in New Jersey until Sept. 9
NEWARK — A national traveling memorial that honors the lives lost to drug use has made its first stop, right here in New Jersey.
The interactive digital display, unveiled by the New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition on Aug. 31, will be running at Newark Public Library until Sept. 9. Groups involved with the memorial say it's later headed to "other states hardest hit by the overdose crisis."
Those on site will be able to learn more about each decedent whose loved ones shared memories through the memorial. The video that accompanies the feature can be viewed at the end of this article.
"Their faces and the stories of their lives from families and friends offer life lessons to all of us who will view it across the country," said New Jersey Department of Health Judith Persichilli, who was on hand for the unveiling of the memorial. "Through their lives, we rededicate our commitment to working to end the overdose crisis."
To go along with the memorial, the library has set up a display of books related to the war against drugs.
New Jersey was home to more than 3,100 drug overdose deaths in 2021, according to preliminary numbers. Overdose deaths in the state have increased by 230% in the last decade.
The memorial is part of the national Support Harm Reduction campaign, launched in February 2022 by public health organization Vital Strategies. The campaign's goal is steer officials' efforts away from punishing drug users and focus those efforts on providing better access to services and materials that can reduce the risks associated with substance abuse, such as housing programs, the opioid antidote naloxone, and fentanyl test strips.
"The memorial highlights that thousands of lives can be saved each year by supporting harm reduction, a practical, effective and humane solution to the overdose crisis," said Dionna King, technical adviser for the Vital Strategies Overdose Prevention Program. "Harm reduction treats people who use drugs with care and dignity instead of pushing them into the shadows or punishing them."