NEW BEDFORD — As much of the nation battles the opioid epidemic, New Bedford and many other communities are recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day.

The day of observance that focuses on people battling addiction falls every year on August 31st. This year, the Greater New Bedford Opioid Task Force is organizing a speaking program and call to action, which begins at 5 p.m. Thursday on the steps of New Bedford City Hall.

After a ceremony at City Hall, evening participants are invited to stop by the drop-in center located on Purchase Street to get helpful resources from area organizations, says Jamie Casey, a member of the Task Force.

“High Point, Seven Hills, Clean Slate, PAACA (Positive Action Against Chemical Addiction) will all have tables set up there to provide information. In those times we’ve even gotten people into detox through those drop-in centers and helped them get started," said Casey.

Reverend David Lima is part of the Opioid Task Force, and says that it is important to put a face on addiction, and to turn around the stereotypes of addiction depicted in television and movies. He also says he wants to make the face of addiction personal to people who view it as a vice rather than a disease.

“You find out that your best friend's son had a problem or daughter, or husband. All of a sudden, it’s somebody’s child, it’s somebody’s family member, it’s somebody’s loved one. That’s when, all of a sudden, instead of them, it becomes us,” said Lima.

Lima also wants to educate the public about how easy it is for somebody to become dependent or even addicted to drugs through prescription medications.

“But the reality and the tragedy is that, especially because of prescription drug overdoses, people that got drugs legally for a procedure or something, the opiates, that’s been the greatest source of increase in not only dependency but then people with addiction," he said.

A candlelight service and vigil will be held at Pilgrim Church on Purchase Street to remember those lost to overdoses. It will take place as people make their way from City Hall to the drop-in center.