June 23, 2014

Editorial, 6/23: Fund sex offender treatment

6-23-2014 Nebraska:

Local and state officials are in a stare down over funding that could put the public at risk.

At issue is an outpatient treatment program aimed at keeping sex offenders from re-offending.

There appears no dispute over the efficacy of the program. Testimonials come from a variety of sources.

The Sexual Trauma/Offense Prevention Program, or STOP, has been run by Lincoln psychologist Dr. Mary Paine since 2000. The program provides individual and group therapy based on a client’s needs.

The program has “enormous value for all of us,” said Lancaster Public Defender Joe Nigro. “I live here too. We all benefit if we reduce the risk to re-offend.”

Earlier this year Gwen Thorpe, deputy chief administrative officer for the Lancaster County Board, termed the program “absolutely necessary in this community.”

County Board members seemed to agree back in January. “You’re providing a well-needed service,” said board chairman Larry Hudkins.

Nonetheless, funds are to run out June 30 and no one has stepped up to make sure the program continues.

The root cause of the dilemma is the county board’s push to privatize services formerly provided at the Community Mental Health Center. But when the request for proposals went out to private agencies, the STOP program was not included, according to Bev Carlson of Lutheran Family Services, which took over in February.

That left the STOP program standing alone. The county has not volunteered to fund the $200,000 cost. The state’s Region V system says it does not have the money. The situation is a classic shortsighted move that could end up costing taxpayers more money.

That’s because some of the program’s clients will have to return to prison or the Regional Center. It costs about $109,000 a year for a patient at the Regional Center, and $40,000 a year for a prison inmate. The outpatient program costs about $6,000 to $8,000 a year per person.

It’s maddening that state and local officials have known for months that the June 30 deadline was coming and still have not come up with a solution.

It’s a case of bureaucracy at its worst. Both the county and the state have potential sources of funding for a public safety program that in the big picture of county and state spending is a relatively small item. Figure it out. ..Source.. by the Journal Star editorial board

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