Topeka A state audit of the sexual predator treatment program at Larned State Hospital found problems that could affect the safety and security of staff and offenders.
“Quite frankly, I think this facility is a disaster waiting to happen,” said state Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.
The report released Wednesday depicted an understaffed facility manned by overworked employees. Under these conditions, some safety and security precautions have been overlooked and need to be improved, the audit said.
During a meeting of the Legislative Post Audit Committee, state officials said staffing levels at Larned were improving, and that many of the audit’s recommendations were being implemented.
But Eldon Dillingham, of Wamego, whose son is in the treatment program, said the employee issues were much worse than the administration let on.
“Morale is zero down there,” Dillingham said.
Established in 1994, the program provides treatment for sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences but have been determined by the courts to be sexual predators in need of involuntary treatment. Some within the program have complained that the commitment is the equivalent of a life sentence since only three people have ever completed the program while 22 have died while under commitment.
As of April, there were 219 residents in the sexual predator treatment program at Larned, and seven at Osawatomie State Hospital.
In surveys returned by employees of the program in Larned, only half felt safe while working, and only half felt the residents were living in a safe and secure environment. In addition, 40 percent said safety and security did not seem like a high priority for management.
In 2012, staff worked 38,000 hours of overtime, compared with 6,700 hours in 2010. And as of April, 30 percent of direct care staff positions were vacant.
In a response to the audit, Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Shawn Sullivan said the employee vacancy rate had since April decreased to 23 percent, due to aggressive recruitment strategies and work on improving retention. In addition, he said overtime was trending downward.
The audit recommended moving the program from western Kansas to an area where there would be more potential job applicants. But KDADS said such a recommendation was premature.
Of the employee surveys, about 70 percent said they experienced verbal threats, and 15 percent said they experienced physical threats over the past year.
The audit also found that the program didn’t have adequate policies or controls to ensure keys and doors were secure and it reported that some residents obtained prohibited items, such as alcohol, cell phones and pornography.
In his response, Sullivan said by the end of August, all mailed packages will be scanned and more metal detectors have been purchased and will be functional by November.