Every year on March 6, regions around the country commemorate the lives that have been lost to the opioid crisis. This memorial is done in the form of Black Balloon Day, which is a topic we’ve covered many times before and is celebrated by community gatherings and the release of black balloons. As you can imagine, this year’s recognition was a little different because of social distancing and COVID-19. But nevertheless, thousands marked the event and it continued to receive significant press coverage.
Local Buffalo, New York affiliate WGRZ covered a major movement, which acknowledged 232 local lives lost in 2020 alone. For their commemoration, residents chose to tie black balloons to their front porches and mailboxes. Not only is this better for the environment, but it allows the symbolism to continue while people remain safely in their homes.
Sadly, fatal opioid overdoses increased in 2020; due, in part, to the national coronavirus pandemic. A lack of access to treatment facilities and the added anxieties of quarantining are said to have contributed to the spike. As local Buffalo Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale Burstein, told WGRZ, issues like this have made Black Balloon Day that much more significant.
“We are committed to supporting families who have been affected by the opioid epidemic,” Dr. Burstein told the site. “As we acknowledge the loss of these individuals in our community, we can give hope and strength to families who have loved ones who are living with an opioid use disorder.”
In Maine, the sentiment was felt as well. Their state lost over 502 people to opioid overdoses last year and several local community members highlighted that fact with their black balloons. Local affiliate WCSH aired a news segment about the movement, showcasing large posters alongside balloons strewn across several towns. As one mother in the segment told reporters, the idea of putting faces with the symbolism helps to “humanize” the impact of these losses.
Perhaps where Black Balloon Day was felt most this year was on social media. Sites like Twitter drew a lot of attention to the cause with #BlackBalloonDay hashtags and notable mentions from influential accounts like the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office (who used an impactful video to get the message across).
Today is #BlackBalloonDay. 🖤
We honor Pennsylvanians who are struggling with substance use disorder and remember those we have lost. pic.twitter.com/CqebhNNyry
— Pennsylvania (@PennsylvaniaGov) March 6, 2021
We certainly want to lend our support to the movement and strongly encourage anyone struggling with an opioid addiction to reach out for help immediately.