Overdose Awareness Vigil planned for Sept. 6

Local businesses are supporting the vigil by placing candles reading “city without stigma) in their windows. (Photo submitted)

WESTFIELD – The Greater Westfield Drug Task Force will host its fourth annual vigil on Friday, Sept. 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. on Park Square Green to commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day and to offer support to those struggling with substance use.
“We want to make a statement about our community that we support recovery and want to stop the stigma of substance use. It’s a way for us to we remember those who lost their battle, and offer hope and support to those still fighting,” said Kathi Cotugno, task force coordinator. All are welcome to attend, she said.
The Task Force’s “Wall of Healing and Hope” will be on display as an active art piece. The wall was created by volunteers Andy Weeks and John Carlo Woodworking, and is meant to encourage the healing process for the community. Anyone who would like to write a message on the wall is welcome to do so. Materials to do this will be provided and people are welcome to bring photos of their loved ones to post.
A reflective and informative agenda will provide the back drop for the event. Speakers will include Mark Jachym, who will speak about his road to recovery. Cotugno will share her story about the loss of her son to substance use in 2016. Voices from Inside, a group that empowers women who have been incarcerated to make changes in their lives through writing, will read from their work. Project Redemption will display photos by Veronika Patty of people who struggle with substance use disorder, to help destigmatize addiction.

Kathi Cotugno, coordinator of the Mayor’s Drug Task Force. (Photo by Amy Porter)

New this year will be luminary bags for purchase. Individuals will be able to write messages, and place lit bags for the duration of the vigil. Candles will be provided. Local leaders and faith-based groups will be on hand to say a few words and lend support to those in need, along with music by Ed Grabowski’s band.
There will also be representatives from a dozen groups in the area offering resources to individuals and families who are struggling.
The vigil will be held rain or shine. If it rains, it will move indoors to the First Congregational Church on Broad Street.
Cotugno said the task force is trying to bring together all of the services in the community that are available to help people and their families who are struggling with substance abuse of any kind. A summit is also being planned for early October.
“Westfield continues to have a problem with drug use and we have lost too many victims to this disease. The vigil is simply an opportunity to come together as a community and show our solidarity in fighting for each other. We can’t stop until it stops,” said Mayor Brian P. Sullivan.

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