GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP, N.J. – A new memorial to honor victims of overdose and addiction will be built in Timber Creek Park in Gloucester Township. The Camden County Freeholder Board passed a resolution this month approving the plan.
The memorial will be a spiral shaped wall surrounding a purple ribbon sculpture representing opioid crisis awareness. The words “Remembrance and Hope Memorial” will be attached to the outside of the wall. The memorial is one more way the Board says it is fighting to defeat the stigma surrounding addiction.
“We want to offer a place for reflection to the families who live in, or are visiting, Camden County that lost a loved one to opioid use disorder, we want them to feel like their lives have been honored properly,” Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. said. “If this memorial can start a conversation between two people about opioid use or about the stigma surrounding this disease, then that alone makes the entire project worth it. We want to show people that they’re not alone and that our community is facing this epidemic together.”
In 2019, a joint Rutgers-Eagleton/Farleigh Dickinson University poll found that roughly a quarter of New Jersey residents or their family members had taken a prescription opioid painkiller in the previous 12 months, and seven in ten respondents rated prescription drug use as a serious problem in their community according to a press release from the county. Since 2013, there have been more than 1,600 suspected overdose deaths in Camden County alone, according to data collected by the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General.
The memorial will feature a large purple ribbon, the universal symbol of opioid addiction awareness, surrounded by a spiraling, sloped wall, with benches nearby for seated reflection. Additional parking areas are planned near the memorial to help visitors access the site in the 128-acre park. In total, the memorial and related park additions will cost approximately $437,000.
Construction is expected to begin before the end of March, with hopes of completing the memorial in time for Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31, 2020, when the Freeholders host an annual remembrance vigil in the park.
“Our communities, our schools, our families have all been impacted by this disease, and for a long time, it was taboo to talk about it; addiction was something society wanted to ignore,” Cappelli said. “We can’t undo years of overdoses, but we can prevent the next decade from looking like the one that just ended. Our hope is that this memorial addresses both our past and our future in a meaningful way as we further combat this epidemic.”
For a video rendering of the site, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?edufilter=NULL&feature=youtu.be&v=IAjIy5gky8s.