GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP — A new memorial to honor victims of deadly drug overdoses is being created in a township park.

The Camden County Freeholder Board passed a resolution this month approving initial plans for a Remembrance and Hope memorial in Timber Creek Park.

“We want to offer a place for reflection to the families who live in or are visiting Camden County that lost a loved one to addiction. We want them to feel like their lives have been honored properly,” Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli said.

The memorial design involves a large purple ribbon, which has become a widespread symbol of opioid addiction awareness, surrounded by a spiraling, sloped wall, with nearby benches for seated reflection, according to a written description released by the county.

Since 2013, there have been more than 1,600 suspected overdose deaths in Camden County alone, according to data collected by the Office of the state Attorney General, as cited by the Freeholder Board.

In total, the memorial and related additions to the facility, such as new parking areas, will cost about $437,000.

“If this memorial can start a conversation between two people about opioid use or about the stigma surrounding addiction, then that alone makes the entire project worth it. We want to show people that they’re not alone and that our community is facing this epidemic together,” Cappelli said.

He said the goal is to break ground this Spring and have the memorial built in time for Camden County’s annual Overdose Awareness Day late this summer.

On Aug. 31, the Freeholder Board will host an annual remembrance vigil in the park.

Camden County Remembrance and Hope Memorial rendering (CME Associates via Youtube)

“Our communities, our schools, our families have all been impacted by this disease, and for a long time, it was taboo to talk about it; addiction was something society wanted ignore,” Cappelli said.

In 2019, a joint poll by Rutgers-Eagleton/Fairleigh Dickinson University found that seven in ten respondents rated prescription drug use as a "serious problem" in their community.

“Our hope is that this memorial addresses both our past and our future in a meaningful way as we further combat this public health crisis," Cappelli said, adding that the "community is crying out for help."

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