The lawn of First Church Natick once again is the site the Purple Flag Project, a striking installation of thousands of flags placed in remembrance of the number of lives lost to opioid overdose in Massachusetts in 2021. The sobering number this year has been confirmed at 2,290 by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. That’s up by 186 from 2021. The display was put into place yesterday by volunteers working with SOAR (Supporting Outreach and Addiction Recovery), a Natick-based support group for those with a loved one suffering with substance abuse.
Eileen Collett, one of SOAR’s founders, said each flag “represents a person and that’s how we think about them. Every one of these people had someone who cared about them. When you see all the flags, you see the depth of how many there are and the despair of the numbers.”
Collett considers herself one of the lucky ones. Her son is in long-term recovery, married and expecting a baby soon. “A lot of my friends in this group don’t have that luxury. It’s alarming that there’s not more being done.”
In addition to the purple flags, red flags are also placed by family members and friends to remember the lives lost in any year to substance use. Red flags are available in a bin for anyone to personalize and add to the display.
The Purple Flag Project will be on display in Natick Center through September 11. From there it will go to the property of Newton-Wellesley Hospital, where it will be visible along busy Route 16 September 12 – 26. Next the project will go to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where it will be on view October 2-8.