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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

August 27, 2019

On the Topic of Behavioral Health

Submitted by Gregg Hadley

Throughout the listening sessions of 2016-17, the community conversations of our Culture of Health Initiative this past year, and many other conversations with our Extension professionals, volunteers and external stakeholders – it is very apparent that we need Extension programming that focuses on behavioral health issues. One only needs to look at newscasts, agricultural media reports on the stressors in farming and ranching, and the myriad of evidence social media gives us to provide further examples of the need for this type of programming.

Many of you have stepped up to do what you can to address behavioral health issues. Some have conducted programming designed to help people ease their anxiety related to the financial stress so many are under. Some have taken a mental health first aid training to be better able to identify when a person may be at risk and to know what to do next. Others have facilitated behavioral health conversations in their communities. Some have brought in external behavioral health experts to talk on the matter. Many of you have done all of these things. I want to thank you all for those efforts.

Nevertheless, in order for us to make a significant impact regarding our state’s behavioral health concerns, we need to have human capital dedicated to the topic. To that end, I would like to introduce you to Bradley Dirks PA-C, M.Ed., brdirks@ksu.edu. Brad Dirks has agreed and is very excited to become our very first Behavioral Health Extension Specialist! We are just as excited to have him on board.

Brad is the Academic Director of our College of Health and Human Sciences' new Physician Assistants (PA) program. He is both a PA and behavioral health expert. He has vast practical experience in providing both medical and behavioral healthcare services in rural settings and other settings, such as the Department of Veterans Administration. His experience has enabled him to understand behavioral health from both the interpersonal issues and from the systems perspective.

Brad’s appointment will be 60% PA Academic Programs and 40% Behavioral Health Extension Programs. Obviously, Brad cannot provide individual care to the people we serve. Nevertheless, he will be working with us to:

• Develop, oversee and help provide our Extension professionals with behavioral health professional development;
• Develop protocols for us to follow when our Extension professionals become concerned about the behavioral health of an individual;
• Liaison with, provide support to, and further develop our state’s behavioral health infrastructure; and,
• Help us to develop, implement, and evaluate behavioral health programs that will be even more impactful than the programming we have today.

Please join me in welcoming Brad to the K-State Research and Extension family. He will assume his Extension responsibilities September 16.