News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Event celebrates addiction recovery

Contributing writer for The Canyon Weekly

The second annual Hands Across the Bridge event celebrates recovery from addictions and mental health challenges. 

“Mental health and addiction are here,” said Jill Bird, communications manager and peer support/wellness specialist for Santiam Recovery Outreach Community Center, a sponsor for the event. “They are real, and they affect more than just the individual. Many people live with and or struggle with it. It is nothing to be ashamed of. If you had diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol, you would seek treatment. Mental health and addiction are no different. We need to fight the stigma and lift each other up in support and encouragement rather than belittle or criticize people that are open about it.”

Santiam Canyon residents and others are invited to the event will be held from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9 at Salem’s Riverfront Park North Meadow and Pavilion next to the splash pad. The memorial walk onto the bridge will begin at 4 p.m., with flowers handed out to participants.

“At that point, we will walk as a group on the pedestrian entrance to the bridge and drop the flowers in remembrance of those we have lost to mental health and addiction this past year,” Bird said. “It is always a very moving moment and something I hope many people will participate and take comfort in.”

Some 35 community partners, community-based organizations and other services related to mental health, addiction and wellness will share information and offer services and support, Bird said. 

“There will also be live music, speakers, food, family area and much more!”

Sponsors include SROCC as well as Willamette Health Council, Marion County Health and Community Services, Matt Unrein Memorial Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, Bridgeway Rolling Café, and Marion and Polk counties ROCCs.  

Community sponsors are WVP Health Authority, Catholic Community Services and Ideal Option. Individual sponsors are Becka Makes Buttons and Neighbors: A Ray of Hope, Today. 

Bird said last year’s Hands Across the Bridge drew about 300 attendees, and more precautions were taken due to the COVID pandemic. Organizers hope to see 500 to 800 attendees this year, she added. 

“In the fight against the stigma of addiction, we will give a voice to people that they may speak out on recovery-related issues and share their stories,” she said. “We bring together those most affected by addiction and mental health challenges, the people in recovery, and their families.”

The statewide effort started years ago when two women stood on top of Portland’s Burnside Bridge at daybreak to celebrate their recovery.

“They were no longer under the bridge in their addictions, but on top of the bridge to celebrate their recovery,” Bird said. “This decision marked the beginning of the Hands Across the Bridge events across the state.

“This is a fantastic event,” she added. “Please come and join the celebration.” 

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