- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 18, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Funding problems are jeopardizing a Lincoln-based program that provides treatment to some sex offenders who are trying to avoid reoffending.

The program known as STOP won’t have funds for about half of its 50-plus patients after June 30, unless other sources for money can be found, the Lincoln Journal Star said (http://bit.ly/1iao2F9 ). STOP stands for Sexual Trauma/Offense Prevention.

“We can’t just have it shut down,” said Deputy Lancaster County Public Defender Joe Nigro.

The program provides a mix of therapy types aimed at helping people avoid reoffending and helping them adapt after being in prison or in the state psychiatric hospital in Lincoln.

Without the program, some patients might have to return to the state hospital or prison because they had been ordered by a state mental health board to participate in the program, officials said.

The program “has enormous value for all of us,” Nigro said. “I live here, too. We all benefit if we reduce the risk to reoffend.”

The two most likely sources for the estimated $200,000 needed are the Lancaster County Board and Region V Systems, officials said. Region V underwrites behavioral health services in 16 southeast Nebraska counties with state, local and federal funds. It says it has no money for the program.

Lancaster County commissioners have said they shouldn’t be paying for the program, because they already pay $928,000 per year to Region V Systems for local services, which is far more per county resident than the other 15 counties in the southeast region are paying.

The state pays for about half the STOP patients, who have come from the inpatient program at the Lincoln Regional Center, which is the state psychiatric hospital.

The STOP program was part of the Community Mental Health Center. But when Lancaster County privatized the center and its programs were turned over to Lutheran Family Services, the sex offender treatment program wasn’t included.

Dean Settle, a retired Community Mental Health Center director, said the county commissioners had made the program a priority because so many sex offenders end up living in Lancaster County after their release from prison or the Lincoln Regional Center.

Settle said that to protect the public, the board wanted to ensure the sex offenders were being checked on and had someone to talk to so that they wouldn’t reoffend.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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