Every overdose death is a preventable death.

Each year, it is an honor to observe Overdose Awareness Day and hold a memorial to remember those who have died from substance use and overdose. Because of COVID-19, we were not able to gather in person this year. But that didn’t stop our team from holding space for our community.

On Monday, August 31st, we installed over 200 balloons at Shemanski Park in downtown Portland to visually represent the people who had lost their lives to drug overdose in 2019 in Multnomah County.


Overdose Awareness Day 2020

Thank you to Allyssa Puett for the lovely photo documentation of this year’s Overdose Awareness Day Memorial. 

Our Drug Users Health Services Coordinator, Haven Wheelock, shared some words at the memorial:

This is a really important day for me, and for our community. It’s a day when we remember those that we have lost to overdose, and we commit to continuing to improve our response to the addiction crisis in our community, in our country, across our globe. This is a day that has a lot of meaning for me, as I think about my friends, both locally and nationally, who we’ve lost and who’ve inspired me and who have taught me so much. And, I stand proud of the work we get to do every day at Outside In. The work of showing up for people who are living with substance use disorders, providing health care to people who desperately just need some connection and some care and some naloxone. And it’s a day when we really try to be committed to doing better.  

Overdose death is preventable. Nearly 71,000 people in the U.S. died in 2019. That’s the highest year on record. That is not that much higher than the year before or the year before that. And I think part of what is so real for me is that we know that people don’t have to die from substance use disorders. We know that every overdose death is a preventable death. We have the tools we need to save lives. To help people engage in their health in ways that feel meaningful and correct for them. And we at Outside In, myself, personally, and all of my community, stand committed to making that happen. I ask everyone to take a second and remember the people you have lost. Because after decades of an addiction crisis plaguing our country, we all have someone that we have lost. And for many of us in the harm reduction field, many of us in the treatment community, it’s too many. But today is a day to honor those folks.  

Today, each balloon here in Shemanski Park represents one person who lost their lives to an overdose in 2019 in Multnomah County. These are friends. These are family members. These are people we miss. People we mourn. And people we can move forward to prevent future loss in their honor.  

Thank you!

It is because of you – our community –
that Outside In is able to save the lives of thousands of people each year.

We would love to hear from you!
Please feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, and questions with us.

We are grateful for your support!

Your support of Outside In creates health and hope for the more than 11,000 people we serve every year. We can’t say it enough: THANK YOU!