Flag display raises awareness for opioid epidemic's toll

By Matthew Bernat | Aug 29, 2017
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Melodye Conway and her son Sean place flags on Tuesday evening, each one representing a person who died due to opioids in Massachusetts last year.

As opioid abuse continues to take thousands of lives in Massachusetts annually, a Wareham native is bringing attention to the epidemic this month with a memorial in front of the Social Harmony Lodge, A.F. & A.M.

Melodye Conway, now a Middleboro resident, set up 2,069 purple flags on the Lodge’s lawn, every flag commemorating one opioid-related death in the state last year.

“Each flag represents a family that is grieving this year, and I feel for every single one of them,” said Conway. “They were somebody’s son or daughter.”

This is the second year Conway has set up the memorial. She lost her son Brent Hastings to an overdose in 2014 and since then has been raising awareness and funds for recovery programs. So far, she’s raised $60,000 through the Brent Hastings Memorial Fund.

Conway hopes the flags will start a conversation between parents and children about the dangers of opioid use. More importantly, Conway said she wants to chip away at the stigma surrounding opioid abuse.

“It’s that stigma that causes people to not seek recovery,” said Conway. “People need to realize these are human beings who are stuck in a vicious cycle.”

Initially, Conway said she planned set up one flag for each opioid-related death from the past three years. In 2015, that number was 1,379 and in 2014 the number was 1,282.

With the number of deaths doubling compared to last year, she had to scale back.

“It’s a staggering number,” she said. “It’s indicative of the work that still needs to be done.”

To donate to the Brent Hastings Memorial Fund, visit the fund’s Facebook page and click on the GoFundMe account link. For more information, call 508-951-2300.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.