Inaugural Black Balloon Day to Pay Tribute to Victims of Opiate Overdoses and Their Family Members

Modified: May 17, 2016 3:18pm

Latest News





 From the Office of the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale R. Burstein

Date March 4, 2016

CONTACT: Mary C. St. Mary/Mary.StMary@Erie.Gov

Phone: 716.858.4941/ Mobile: 716.253.3925

Inaugural Black Balloon Day to Pay Tribute to Victims of Opiate Overdoses and their Family Members

ERIE COUNTY, NY— On an almost daily basis, headlines and news stories in our community detail the rapidly increasing number of fatal overdoses caused by heroin and other opiates.

Often lost in this coverage are the stories of the people left behind; family members and friends who have suffered through this chronic disease with their addicted loved one. Many have pursued countless strategies and sought help for their child, friend or loved one, to manage their addiction.

At 11:00 am on Sunday, March 6th, on the steps of Old Erie County Hall, 92 Franklin Street in downtown Buffalo, members of the Erie County Opiate Epidemic Task Force’s Family Work Group, along with the West Side Youth Development Coalition, will remember and pay tribute to the at least 212 individuals who succumbed to opioid addiction in Erie County in 2015, as well as the numerous deaths since January 1, 2016.

The victims of opiate addiction will be paid tribute through the display of black balloons outside the entrance to County Hall, representing our collective community front door. We hope to increase the awareness of the daily struggles faced by members of our community who suffered the loss of a loved one, and those who are still battling, working tirelessly to help their loved one manage their addiction.

Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke (D-Buffalo, Cheektowaga) and Erie County Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale R. Burstein, will offer remarks that reflect on the challenges that addiction has on loved ones. Upon conclusion of the brief program, attendees will take black balloons to their house and affix them to their front porch or mailbox.

“We are truly saddened by the loss of cherished members of our community to opioid addiction,” said Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health. “Their memories inspire us to work together to help others affected by opioid addiction overcome this challenge and prevent additional lives lost. I encourage all Erie County residents to provide support and understanding to those affected.”

Black Balloon Day is a new, nationwide commemoration that originated in Peabody, Massachusetts by Lauren and Diane Hurley, in remembrance of a family member lost to a drug overdose a year ago. If every person in America with opiate-addicted family members or friends hung a black balloon outside their house, it is hoped that the widespread nature of addiction would be apparent and recognized in each community.

About the Erie County Opiate Epidemic Task Force Family Work Group

One of the seven work groups that make up the Task Force, the Family Work Group is comprised of family members and loved ones of those currently struggling with addiction, as well as those who have already lost a loved one to opiate addiction. The Family Work Group’s mission is to support and participate in advocacy efforts and to develop an integrated support network for family and friends dealing with the effects of addiction in a loved one. The Family Work Group is chaired by Legislator Patrick Burke (D-Buffalo, Cheektowaga).

About the West Side Youth Development Coalition

The West Side Youth Development Coalition (WSYDC) is a substance use prevention coalition that targets the West Side of Buffalo and operates from SUNY Buffalo State’s Institute for Community Health Promotion. Through the enactment of strategies to reduce use based on identified community risk factors, the Coalition seeks to improve the health and well-being of youth living on the West Side of Buffalo. WSYDC is supported by the Drug Free Communities Program of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), a Partnership for Success Grant from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and SUNY Buffalo State.

To learn more about this event, contact:

Nathan Attard, Partnership for Success Grant Community Coordinators

SUNY Buffalo State, 1300 Elmwood Avenue

Classroom Building A203, Buffalo, NY 14222-1095   716-878-6137

#  #  #

For More Information:

Erie County Department of Health

Black Balloon Day

Frequently Requested



Phone: (716) 858-7690

Fax: (716) 858-8701

Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH)
95 Franklin Street
Buffalo, New York 14202

ECDOH Locations