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Scappoose Police Department hosting walk to raise funds for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - The Out of the Darkness Walk will start at Scappoose's Heritage Park on 2nd Street next to City Hall.

Community members will gather Saturday, Sept. 21, to raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The fourth annual Out of the Darkness Walk for Columbia County will start at Heritage Park in Scappoose.

The walk has already received $9,000 in donations for AFSP. The Oregon chapter of the foundation hosts trainings and other resources in Columbia County.

The walk has grown from roughly 50 participants in the first year to 134 participants last year.

"It's emotional, it's humbling, and it is support," Karen Blades, one of the event organizers, said of the walk. "I think we've all been touched in one way or another with mental health or suicide. It's just amazing, the outpouring that happens."

The Scappoose Police Department organizes the walk with community members like Blades.

The mental health struggles of friends and family members prompted Blades to get involved with the walk and other programs.

To Scappoose Police Chief Norm Miller, growing awareness of mental health issues and suicide is just the first step.

"We know it's out there, but how do you deal with it?" Miller said. "Getting more people involved and getting more people trained (in crisis response) is the next level."

At the police department, officers and front office staff go through a week-long training on crisis intervention, learning the signs of different mental health crises and how to respond.

"Twenty years ago, you showed up and you didn't really deal with the mental health. You just ended up taking them to jail or something like that," Miller said.

Officers have more support today, including a crisis response team at Columbia Community Mental Health, though the county still doesn't have a local option for psychiatric holds.

The event starts at 7:30 a.m. and the walk begins at 9 a.m. Participants can register online through Friday, Sept. 20, or register in-person on the morning of the walk.

After the walk, participants can enjoy a free lunch provided by Elks Veterans Bunker.

The event also features a bead ceremony, where participants can select bead strings in colors that correspond to how they are impacted by suicide.

Supporters can also attend a spaghetti dinner at Wild Currant Catering in St. Helens on Friday, Sept. 20, from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets cost $15 and proceeds go toward the Out of the Darkness Walk.

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