May 22, 2014

Scotts Valley residents voice concern over sex offender treatment center

5-22-2014 California:

Site is the county's only outpatient sex offender program

As a mother and resident of Scotts Valley, Sara Williams said she was surprised to find out about a counseling center for sex offenders near Scotts Valley Middle School.

The facility, in a nondescript suite at 4200 Scotts Valley Drive, is run by the Counseling and Psychotherapy Centers Inc., a Massachusetts-based company specializing in sex offender treatment.

At the Scotts Valley City Council meeting Wednesday, Williams told council members that she was disappointed no one in the city office or police department looked up what services were offered by the company. She was one of about a dozen people at the meeting for the issue.

The counseling center's proximity to the school came to light when Scotts Valley residents learned about the facility over the weekend and brought the issue to the attention of councilwoman Donna Lind. In turn, she asked Scotts Valley Chief of Police John Weiss investigate.

According to city records, the Counseling and Psychotherapy Centers Inc. applied for a business license Oct. 22, 2012, and was granted it later that year. In an attached letter, the company stated some of the clients were there for treatment of domestic violence or sexual abusive behavior.

Scotts Valley Police were aware of the center but didn't know it only treated sex offenders, Weiss said.

"Nowhere did they say 'We were working exclusively with sex offenders,'" Weiss said. "It sounded to us like they had an array of different clients."

The letter also asked the city to confirm there were no zoning restrictions for their services.

"Legally, the city can't tell them they can't have a license because they're a counseling center," Weiss said.

Weiss added there haven't any reported incidents related to the center since it opened.

The center houses the only outpatient sex offender treatment program in the county, said Fernando Giraldo, Santa Cruz County Probation Chief.

The county probation department has roughly 20 people that are under court-ordered sexual offender treatment in the program, according to Giraldo. There are roughly another 20 in the program that are federal probationers and state parolees, a different jurisdiction than county probation.

Giraldo said he doesn't know how the counseling center was able to open so close to the school, though he added it was certified by the state Sex Offender Management Board. The state board certifies and signs off on all sex offender management programs.

While Giraldo acknowledged the location isn't the best place, he emphasized the importance of the program itself.

"Let's say this program shut down. You would have potentially 40 sex offenders without any sex offender treatment," he said.

The facility fit into the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's parameters that it be 250 feet away from programs for children, said Jack Wallace, clinical director for Counseling and Psychotherapy's northern California branch.

Wallace said it's difficult to find a place for a counseling center because no one wants it in their neighborhood. Exactly how the site ended up within eyesight of the middle school is unclear.

But given the concern from residents, the company is looking to relocate the counseling site, Wallace said.

"We certainly don't want to go to war with any community because I don't think that's in anybody's best interest," he said. ..Source.. by Calvin Men

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