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Spreading messages of hope

Monday, September 16, 2019

​About a dozen Oregon State Hospital staff and patients attended “Hands Across the Bridge” at Salem’s Riverfront Park on Sept. 6.

The purpose of the event was to honor people in recovery and to remember those who lost their lives to addiction and mental health challenges. 

Sponsored and organized by the Marion-Polk Peer Coalition, “Hands Across the Bridge” began 13 years ago. The event now attracts hundreds of people from throughout Oregon, who gather for support and fellowship.  

“When so many people come together, you realize you are not alone,” said Max Greenway of Bridge 1. “It’s really moving.”

Kris Anderson and Jerry Weller, peer recovery specialists for Oregon State Hospital, staffed a resource table at the fair. They said they were excited to share information about public offerings available at the Sjolander Empowerment Center, which include a theater ensemble, a public speaking group and seasonal activities. The center is on hospital grounds and gives patients and community members a place to attend support group meetings and enjoy the companionship of others.

For Weller, “Hands Across the Bridge” is an opportunity to remember his sister and to give thanks for his own recovery. “I believe people can and do recover,” he said. “I’m an example of that myself.”

Stephen Jones of Bridge 3 said “Hands Across the Bridge” reminds him of how far he’s come in life. Before he was admitted to the hospital three years ago, he said he was on a path of self-destruction. He lost his car, his house and faith in his future.

But now, thanks to staff who believed in him, he received the treatment he needed and is preparing to discharge back into the community.  

“It isn’t easy to crawl back up, but I did it, he said. “Now, there is a lot of hope, a lot of possibility. I have friends, and I plan to go back to school.”

For OSH Peer Recovery Specialist Cecilia Fiorillo, seeing everyone come together for the event was a heartwarming experience.  

“There are people out there who hear your voice and share your vision,” she said. “It always amazes me to see how much people care.”


Oregon State Hospital staff, patients celebrate recovery from addiction and mental health challenges at “Hands Across the Bridge” in Salem on Sept. 6.

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