On August 31st, the City of Philadelphia opened the pop-up Overdose Memorial Garden to honor and memorialize the many lost in Philly to overdose. Departments involved were Public Health, Behavioral Health and disAbility Services, the Managing Director’s Office’s Opioid Response Unit, and the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity. Built by ThinkGreen and Philadelphia Horticultural Society , the temporary garden was located on the Thomas Paine Plaza at the Municipal Services Building. Families were able to create tags honoring their lost loved ones.

Here is a picture of the one I made for my daughter.

The Garden remained in place for a month with a robust schedule of daily events and various providers sharing important information. These ranged from training and distribution of Narcan (overdose reversal drug) to crafts workshops for families to create memorial picture frames or decorated boxes. I participated in a roundtable discussion between first responders and family members as well as an informative presentation on the important topic of co-occurring disorders (mental health and substance use disorders combined-very common—more information available at www.theharrisproject.org.)

The effort was accompanied by a virtual memorial site where families could post photographs and short memorial words about their loved ones. The virtual memorial is ongoing. Here is the link. You can find my daughter, Giana Natali, on this site. You can also add a lost loved one if you like.

Many thanks to Laura Vargas, Bereavement Care Program Manager at the Department of Health and her awesome team for making the garden and memorial site a success.