Douglas County Commission to receive report on local effort to address mental health issues among farmers

photo by: Chris Conde

The Douglas County Courthouse is pictured in September 2018.

While many Kansas farmers believe mental health is a serious issue, almost half of them said in a recent Kansas Farm Bureau study that it’s hard to access mental health services designed for their lifestyle, said Mallory Meek, an agent for the K-State Research and Extension office in Douglas County.

However, in Douglas County, Meek’s office is partnering with the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center to reverse that trend, she said in a memo to the Douglas County Commission.

During the commission’s meeting on Wednesday, Meek will present ways the partnership is attempting to address mental health issues among local farmers, which is a “community that often suffers in silence,” Meek said in the memo.

Farmers face unique stress factors, including unpredictable rain patterns, natural disasters and trade restrictions, that lead them to be more likely to suffer major depressive disorders than any other community, Meek said.

“Because of their unique stress factors and the stigma that surrounds farmers, it takes special efforts and resources to properly reach and help this community,” she said.

Some examples of the work the partnership is providing includes attempts to raise awareness of the issue and creating a webpage on the extension office’s website highlighting various resources that farmers can use to get help. Bert Nash also has a program to match farmers with mental health providers who can fit their specific needs.

“Our hope for this project is to not only create useful resources for our farmers but to break down the stereotype surrounding mental health in agriculture and normalize the conversation by bringing attention to it,” she said.

In other business, the commission will consider:

• Amending a previously approved contract with Hamm Inc. for road improvement projects on portions of county routes 1029 and 438 for the purposes of extending the projects.

Keith Browning, director of public works, asked the commission to approve an amendment to the contract to allow the construction project to add another 1.5 miles of road improvements on Route 438 to the Kansas Highway 10 intersection. The amendment would add an increase of spending of $485,000 to the contract for a total of about $1.75 million.

• Providing direction to county staff regarding the funding of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical’s training burn tower replacement project.

County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said in a memo that the county allocated $179,000 for the project in the 2019 budget. The county is now being asked to provide an additional $128,000 for the project, for a total of $307,000.

The commission will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. Full agendas are available online at douglascountyks.org.

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