A Wrentham church has launched an unusual campaign to raise awareness of the toll that opioid abuse has taken in Massachusetts.
Signs marked “#2069” — the number of opioid-related deaths reported statewide for 2016 — have shown up in yards around the region thanks to the efforts of Trinity Episcopal Church.
The Rev. Ron Tibbetts said he was the first to admit that “we at Trinity Church were unaware of the crisis.” Then, the church’s outreach committee met with the S.A.F.E. Coalition, a Franklin-based group that deals with substance abuse issues.
Members were so struck by the statistics they decided their signs would be simple: a white background with the number written in large black text. “We talked about how we could make it as stark and bleak as possible,” Tibbetts said.
Tibbetts started a Facebook page “#2069_signs” where people could order the signs. He has been asking for $12 donations, which go toward production of the signs and to fund a rally the church is hosting Oct. 28 to raise opioid awareness and honor first responders who have been fighting the crisis.
“It’s empowered us to become a lot more aware of the world around us,” Tibbetts said.
The movement has expanded beyond Wrentham. On the Facebook page, people have posted photos of signs in other Massachusetts towns including Wellfleet, Eastham, and East Bridgewater. As of early Thursday, 277 signs had been ordered from his church alone.
(Since the sign campaign began, the state has updated the total opioid-related deaths for 2016 to 2,107.)
The Rev. Robert Everett of the Second Church of Plymouth said he has always strived to serve and accept those suffering with opioid addiction, and was inspired by Tibbetts’s campaign. He saw the #2069 yard signs as a way to let those who are struggling with addiction know that they are welcome at his church.
“We want to accept them as they are and to love them and to make them a member of our congregation,” Everett said.
Everett has already given out 10 signs and will be receiving another 20 from Tibbetts next week.
“I’ve had people ask me, ‘What’s the number in front of your church?’” Everett said. “That gives us the chance to talk about it.”Sophia Eppolito can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SophiaEppolito.