June 18, 2014

No money for local sex offender program after June 30

6-18-2014 Nebraska:

A Lincoln-based outpatient treatment program that helps keep sex offenders from re-offending may end this summer, because there appears to be no money to keep it running.

By all accounts, the STOP program run by Lincoln psychologist Dr. Mary Paine since 2000 has been successful in reducing the recidivism of people with sexually deviant behavior who are living in the Lincoln area.

“We can’t just have it shut down,” Deputy Lancaster County Public Defender Joe Nigro said, pointing to financial and public safety factors.

The program is a mix of group and individual therapy, based on the need of each client, that helps people adapt after being in prison or at the Lincoln Regional Center, and helps them avoid deviant behavior.

But there will be no funding for about half of the 50-plus clients after June 30 unless something changes.

Without the local program, some clients will have to go back to the Regional Center, or back to prison because they have been ordered by the mental health board to participate in the program.

And the average costs for the Regional Center program ($109,000 a year) and prison ($40,000 a year) are much higher than the $6,000 to $8,000 cost for the Lincoln outpatient program.

In addition, some clients who will remain in the community without any support are more likely to re-offend.

"(The program) has enormous value for all of us," Nigro said. "I live here, too. We all benefit if we reduce the risk to re-offend.”

The two most likely funding sources for the estimated $200,000 cost are the Lancaster County Board and Region V Systems.

Region V Systems, which funds behavioral health services in 16 southeast Nebraska counties with state, local and federal funds, says it has no money for the program.

And Lancaster County commissioners say they shouldn’t be paying for the program, because they already pay $928,000 a year to Region V Systems for local services, far more per county resident than other counties in the southeast region.

The state pays for about half the clients in the program, the 25 patients who have come from the inpatient program at the Regional Center.

Funding for the rest has been a mix from Region V and Lancaster County, according to Dean Settle, retired Community Mental Health Center director.

The STOP program was historically part of the Community Mental Health Center. But when the county privatized the center and its programs were turned over to Lutheran Family Services, the sex offender treatment program was not included, according to all the people involved in the funding discussion.

C.J. Johnson, administrator for Region V, suggested that some of the needed money might come from state sources, perhaps probation, whose clients are part of the STOP program.

Perhaps the Lincoln Regional Center, which has a sex offender line item in its budget, could help with the costs, he said.

"I don't know the answer," said Johnson.

He said he has been very clear over the past three years, during the transition from county-run mental health center to privately run center, that the new provider would not handle the STOP program and that there was no money for it.

“I don’t know why the issue wasn’t dealt with as part of the process when the county closed down the mental health center," said Nigro.

In the past, Settle said, the County Board had made the program a priority because so many sex offenders end up living in Lancaster County after their release from prison or the Regional Center.

In order to protect the public from people who might re-offend, the board wanted to make sure these people had services, that someone was checking on them and making sure they had someone to talk to, Settle said.

"They saw it as a public-safety issue." ..Source.. by Nancy Hicks

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