Purple Flags Displayed Across County For Overdose Awareness Day

Howell Police Department Cadets Gavin Jackey, Chandler Hasting, and Brendon Bernard (left to right) put together the display on August 23 for Overdose Awareness Day. (Photo courtesy Christa Riddle, Howell Alliance)

  HOWELL – Throughout all of Monmouth County, purple flags decorated the lawns of many municipalities in honor of International Overdose Awareness Day.

  In Howell Township, the police cadets had the opportunity to take part in the project and set up a purple flag display in front of town hall.

  The Overdose Awareness Campaign, held by the Prevention Coalition of Monmouth County, aims to bring awareness to this epidemic and support community members one town at a time. The Coalition’s goal is to reduce substance abuse in Monmouth County by providing awareness, education and advocacy through collaborative efforts to ensure healthy, safe and drug-free lives.

  What started as a display in Wall Township many years ago, has now grown throughout the entire county. The Coalition has been running the campaign for two years now. This year they have 35 towns that participated in the project, 15 more than the year before. Some of the towns involved in the campaign are Red Bank, Colts Neck, Freehold, Brielle and many more, including Howell Township and Farmingdale.

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  “The opioid task force and the Coalition staff work together on the International Overdose Awareness Day display and campaign. I have to give kudos to Wall Township, Manasquan, RAFTS and the Wall Alliance and their coordinator because they started the purple flag display. They’ve been doing it for several years and they were so gracious to allow the Prevention Coalition to take this on as a county wide campaign,” Kaitlin McCarthy, Assistant Director of Prevention First & Regional Coalition Coordinator said.

Not only are there displays at many town buildings, but several residents took it upon themselves to have their own display in their front yard to support the cause. (Photo courtesy the Prevention Coalition of Monmouth County)

  “One of the things that happened this year is that we got a lot of people interested in having the display in front of their yard. I think that’s been one of the most touching things this year, it really hit home because you sit there and talk to parents and people who have lost children and family members to this disease and to overdose and it’s really heartbreaking. But you’re also grateful that we can all come together in unity to show that they’re not alone. Nobody is alone in this. It effects millions and millions of people throughout the world. I think it’s really important for us to break that stigma,” McCarthy said.

  Each purple flag represents a life lost in Monmouth County in the first quarter of 2021. Between January through March there were 51 people who died of an overdose in the county. That number has since increased, currently nearing 80 people who have passed.

  “If 20 years ago I went by a display outside a municipal building in a town about heroin or overdoses I would be shocked,” McCarthy said. “This says so much. This is where we’ve come. It’s not the cure or the fix, but it’s nice to see that we are starting to unify and come together.”

  Anyone is welcomed to join the Coalition. If interest, visit their website at pcofmc.org and fill out a membership form. For more information about the event or about the Prevention Coalition of Monmouth County, email Kaitlin McCarthy at kmccarthy@preventionfirst.net.