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On January 1, 2017, the KHI News Service became part of KCUR public radio’s new initiative, the Kansas News Service. The Kansas News Service will continue to cover health policy news and broaden its scope to include education and politics. All stories produced by the former KHI News Service are archived here. Stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to

Changes underway for Kansas sexual predator program

Officials hope new format will help more offenders complete treatment

By Meg Wingerter | December 23, 2016

More offenders are completing the sexually violent predator treatment program in Kansas, but state officials say they still need a bigger building to house those in treatment.

The program, based at Larned State Hospital, attempts to treat offenders who have completed their prison sentences but who were found to have a mental or personality disorder that placed them at a high risk of committing another violent sexual offense.

A Legislative Post Audit report found the program could run out of space as early as 2017. As of mid-December, the program had 261 patients. Its capacity, including reintegration facilities at Osawatomie State Hospital and Parsons State Hospital, is 264.

Tim Keck, interim secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, told a legislative committee this week that the department is looking into expanding the sexual predator treatment program into the building currently housing the Larned Juvenile Corrections Facility, which is scheduled to close early next year. Some renovations will be necessary, he said, but the department still needs to determine what they are and how much they will cost.

Kim Lynch, KDADS senior litigation counsel, said the department is examining options to reduce the program’s population or add more beds.

While offenders aren’t supposed to be confined for life, more have died than completed the program. Eight offenders have been released and 28 have died.

Mike Dixon, chief forensic psychologist at Larned State Hospital, said they have changed the program to increase the odds offenders will complete it. Participation in treatment is up, with 90 percent of offenders in the program expected to take part in January, he said.

While offenders aren’t supposed to be confined for life, more have died than completed the program. Eight offenders have been released and 28 have died.

The changes include reducing the process from seven steps to three tiers, where offenders go through therapy and learn skills to live in society without committing another sexual offense, Dixon said. In the second tier, they can go on supervised outings, and in the third, they move to a reintegration facility and have to get a job, transportation, housing and a therapist in the community before being released, he said.

“When they get to tier three, they’re pretty much self-sufficient,” he said.

As of mid-December, 18 offenders were on the third tier, Dixon said. Four completed the program this year, bringing the total to eight since the program started in 1994, he said.

The program staff now also assess offenders to determine their risk of committing another sex crime, their intellectual capabilities and factors like personality traits, addictions and trauma that could complicate their treatment, Lynch said. The results determine the kind of treatment they receive, she said.

“Say they have an anger management issue. Then they’ll get anger management treatment,” she said.

Before, all offenders received the same treatment, just at varied paces. Now, offenders with intellectual disabilities are in a separate track that emphasizes role-playing to counteract antisocial behavior, Lynch said.

Offenders also can learn skills they will need to live independently, such as budgeting, using a computer and interviewing for a job, Lynch said. Those skills could make it easier for offenders who complete treatment to transition to living independently, she said.

“Once residents were transferred (for reintegration), they felt they didn’t have the skills to be placed into society,” she said.