FULTON, Mo. (AP) — The number of people held in Missouri as sexually violent predators is shooting up, leading mental health officials to seek millions of additional dollars for their care.
In the upcoming year alone, Gov. Jay Nixon recommends more than $2.6 million for nearly 60 additional positions within the Sex Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment Services program at the Southeast Missouri Mental Health Center in Farmington and at the Fulton State Hospital.
It's not the first time officials have sought and received funding for additional staff.
"Pretty much like clockwork we get about 20 people a year," committed to the sex offender program, Mental Health Department Director Keith Schafer said.
A Missouri law that took effect in 1999 permits certain sex offenders to be civilly committed as a "sexually violent predator" after completing their criminal sentences. It requires a mental abnormality and a "more likely than not" probability that the person would commit sexual violence if released.
Security is high, and the facilities are surrounded by razor wire. In 2008, the number of people committed or detained while awaiting a civil commitment decision was 152. That grew to 212 people four years later, which included 34 detained in jails while the civil commitment process was pending.
Officials project that the count will rise to 234 people, with 31 people detained in jails, during the current 2013 fiscal year. In 2015, it is estimated to be 274 people, with 31 people detained in jails.
Missouri's current operating budget includes partial-year funding for a third 25-person unit at the Fulton State Hospital. Nixon's budget proposal for next year would fully fund the expansion ward at Fulton and would provide 10 months of funding to open 25 new beds in Farmington.
"This simply gives the Department of Mental Health the ability to initiate treatment," Schafer said.
Treatment consists of group therapy, classes and individual therapy. It is designed to help patients with accepting responsibility for sexual offenses and their consequences, gaining control of deviant sexual urges and behavior, coping with negative emotions that can create risk for re-offending and developing plans for functional use of leisure time.
The process for deciding who enters the sex offender program starts with prison or mental health officials alerting the attorney general's office and a seven-member multidisciplinary team that someone nearing release could qualify as a "sexually violent predator." The attorney general's office receives an assessment from the multidisciplinary team, and a five-member prosecutor's committee also completes a review.
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