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Candlelight Vigil Honors Victims of Opioid Epidemic in Fall River

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Daniel Ackerman
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People released white doves outside Fall River City Hall on Tuesday, to commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day.

About two hundred people gathered in Fall River Tuesday evening for a candlelight vigil to mark International Overdose Awareness Day.

The event outside City Hall included musical performances and a release of about a dozen white doves to commemorate those who died by overdose in the past year.

Like most in the crowd, a woman named Kayla said she was there with a loved one on her mind. “My cousin Miguel passed away in 2017, seven days before his birthday,” she said. “I was fortunate enough to make it out of my addiction, and he lost his battle. And this is what I'm here for.”

Kayla added the vigil was also a way to help destigmatize addiction. “For me, it’s just showing everybody how to be safe and just being there for one another. And hopefully we can bring awareness to the opioid epidemic.”

Addiction treatment and recovery groups tabled at the event. Kari Phillips, who said she is in recovery herself, works for the nonprofit Steppingstone, Inc. She highlighted the organization’s new partnership with Fall River’s Fire Department to help people seek treatment.

“Anybody in the city of Fall River can go to any firehouse — anybody that wants help — and the fire station will call us, and a recovery coach will go down and we'll work together to get them treatment,” said Phillips.

Other groups at the vigil were distributing Narcan. The nasal spray can stop opioid overdoses and is available at any Massachusetts pharmacy with no prescription.

Fall River has among the highest rates of opioid overdose in the state. Last year, 72 city residents died, marking the third straight year of increase in overdose deaths.

Daniel covers the South Coast for WCAI. He comes to the station from Minnesota Public Radio, where he reported on science and the environment. Daniel has produced audio documentaries on a motley mix of topics, from the science of sewage to the history of automobile license plates. He holds a PhD in climate change ecology from the University of Minnesota. Daniel is a 2021-22 Report For America corps member.