LAKE OSWEGO, OR (KPTV) - The Lake Oswego Police Department is launching a first-of-its-kind position, taking an officer off patrol to focusing exclusively on community outreach and prevention.

Dawn Pecoraro is now the department’s first and only Adult Resource Officer – a role that was just created in September.

She’s focusing on things like services for older adults, behavioral and mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence and suicide prevention.

As far as the department knows, she’s the only officer in Oregon doing something like this.

“Inherently with law enforcement and first responders, we’re not doing that follow up so it’s kind of just an extension of community policing and trying to take a proactive approach rather than always being reactive,” Pecoraro told FOX 12.

She follows up on reports and referrals from her colleagues, to check in with people who may need a little support.

She’s also working with the Adult Community Center, the Lake Oswego Fire Department, the Clackamas County Suicide Prevention Coordinator and other regional partners to help reach people in need and provide a local connection.

“I’ve had very positive responses from people I’ve followed up with,” she said.

The need for her work is staggering.

The rate of suicide in Clackamas County is higher than in Multnomah or Washington County, and is 16% higher than the national average, according to 2015 data from the Oregon Health Authority and Galli Murray, the Clackamas County Suicide Prevention Coordinator.

Murray said in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, 67 people died by suicide in Clackamas County. When compared to the population of Clackamas County, that’s a rate per 100,000 people of 15.9%.

The most prominent demographic was middle-age to older adults, specifically white men age 44 or older.

Murray said for every person who dies from suicide, there are 25 people who attempt it and survive.

She said it’s critical for those people to get hope, connection and support so they can recover.

Murry and Pecoraro are now working closely together on outreach and prevention.

“Suicide in itself is a hard topic and a hard subject to broach with people, so some of it is that outreach, that connection, and asking people how they’re doing,” Pecoraro said.

She also works to connect with loved ones who are around someone in a crisis.

“Just trying outreach to the families, how are they coping with it, are they trying to take care of themselves, is there anything they can do because I think those are the ones that get forgotten sometimes,” she said.

Her position will continue to evolve as the needs in the community do, but Pecoraro is optimistic about what’s ahead for her and the people she meets along the way.

“It’s really exciting to be the first person kind of creating this and seeing where it goes,” she said.

If you’d like to learn more, experts will be speaking together on suicide prevention and warning signs at a free event. It will be at the Lake Oswego Public Library on May 2 starting at 7 p.m.

If you or someone you know needs help, we have a list of resources for you at kptv.com/bettertogether.

As part of FOX 12’s Better Together initiative, we are joining newsrooms across the state to raise awareness about Oregon’s suicide crisis. For more about Breaking the Silence, go to breakingthesilenceor.com.

Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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