Church Uses Simple Signs To Start Overdose Awareness Campaign

By Britni de la Cretaz 09/07/17

The conversation-starting signs state the number of opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts last year.

#2069 campaign sign
Photo via Facebook

A new awareness campaign is popping up in yards all over Massachusetts—lawn signs with the text “#2069” on them. These simple signs—black text on a plain white background—are being distributed by Trinity Episcopal Church in the southeastern Massachusetts town of Wrentham.

The number 2,069 is the total number of opioid-related deaths in the state in 2016. The signs' design is intentional, meant to be “as stark and bleak as possible,” Rev. Ron Tibbetts told the Boston Globe.

So far, 277 signs have been ordered from the church. Any donations go towards an awareness rally called No Shame 2017 that the church is holding on October 28.

“We hope to offer support to those in the struggle, those who confront the epidemic on every level and to erase shadows cast by sterotypes [sic] and stigmas,” reads the event description. “We aim to lift the unfair burden of shame carried by so many.” 

Since the campaign began, the estimated death toll has been updated to 2,107. Massachusetts also leads the U.S. in opioid-related emergency room visits. The signs are meant to be a conversation starter, allowing people to discuss the opioid crisis sweeping the state.

In the public Facebook group #2069_signs, one member shared a story of using the signs to open a conversation with her 12-year-old daughter, who asked what the sign meant. “This is a great age before they go off to school to discuss the effects drug use has on not just people and families, but also communities,” she wrote.

Other people share photos of the lawn signs that they encounter, documenting how far and wide the signs have spread. But to the dismay of the church, the public awareness campaign has attracted some local businesses looking to make a quick buck.

Since the initial press coverage the signs received, local companies have begun selling “#2069” merchandise, without the consent or approval of the church. “At least three or four t-shirt printing companies offering to put the signs up for us and never has there been an offer to split the profit to do anything to make a commitment to a recovery center,” Tibbetts told Fox 25 Boston this week.

The company has since apologized to the church, but Tibbetts told Fox 25 Boston that he was disappointed that people were trying to profit off the campaign, saying, “It seemed to a lot of people that it was just so unfair, so opportunistic and it just really just was not what we had in mind."

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.