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New OSU Extension role targets addiction with mental health support

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Headshot of Ty Gregson with brown hair, wearing a blue and white checkered collared shirt and blue sweater

Ty Gregson encourages communities to acknowledge and understand mental health struggles and substance use when supporting those with addictions. (Photo provided by Ty Gregson)


By Laney Reasner


Ty Gregson joined Oklahoma State University Extension in May 2023 as the assistant state specialist in opioid and substance use prevention. He serves Oklahoma communities by providing educational resources on addiction and substance use.


Gregson received his undergraduate degree in human development and family studies at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and launched his initial career in writing, mostly fiction and children’s stories.


“I wrote some content on marriage, and it gained a lot of traction,” Gregson said. “As I was searching for my next steps, a lot of people encouraged me to get into education, which is what led to getting my master’s from OSU.”


He earned a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy when he realized he enjoyed helping families through his writing projects. After graduate school, he began a position that promoted mental health awareness related to challenges with poverty, substance use and family struggles. The experience led him to his current role in OSU Extension.


“I enjoy the creativity,” Gregson said. “Not only does the position relate to my background, but it gives me the freedom to develop programming in substance use prevention.


Gregson primarily focuses on mental health education to minimize substance use issues in Oklahoma communities.


“No matter the addiction, whether opioid use or sports betting, all addiction is a means to get to the end of the day,” Gregson said.


Gregson and his colleagues are creating programming for Extension educators to implement within communities. New resources will range from handouts to workshops that he and educators can use when discussing difficult topics like mental health and substance use.


“There’s currently no book or paper for county educators to use when communicating about substance use with communities,” Gregson said. “We’re working on a few resources both internally and externally.”


In addition to handouts, Gregson and his colleague, Danyelle Kuss, Oklahoma County Extension educator, developed a mental health card game for middle school students. The game is designed to present healthy coping skills and explain how to apply them in real-world situations.


Gregson hopes the resources can be shared with many other Extension educators in the future.


“A lot of people fear opioids and don’t know how to combat addiction,” Gregson said. “Communities need information to understand the uncomfortable things like mental health struggles and substance use.”  

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