Convicted sex offenders have been meeting in Morehead for 15 years.

Offenders travel from 16 eastern Kentucky counties to participate in group therapy. Those who are on probation or parole are required by law to participate in the sessions, which are offered by the Department of Corrections (D.O.C.), Division of Mental Health.

“In our first location I don’t know that anybody was really even aware that we were there,” Keth Zimmerman-Hicks, Corrections Program Administrator, said. “We were in the old forestry department. We never had a reported case of any offender who had come into Morehead for treatment, offending while they were here for that purpose or causing any other problems for that matter.”

The sex offender treatment prevention center is on North Wilson Avenue, next to the Morehead Police Department.

Sex offenders meet with therapists for three hours per week to discuss corrective thinking, relapse prevention and deviant arousal. Offenders also are required to purchase a book, much like a school book, and do homework assignments.

“One of the main things is they take responsibility for their charges or their crime,” said Kristy Moore, Social Service Clinician. “If you don’t take responsibility and you don’t say, ‘Yes, I did this and this is how I did this,’ then you can’t move on to the next step. Victim empathy and relapse prevention is probably two of the most important. You can learn empathy but if you don’t learn empathy then you’re at high risk to re-offend.”

Hicks said not much has changed since the inception of Morehead’s treatment site, which was 15 years ago.

“The offenders that do come for the treatment have an understanding from the very beginning that if they don’t live here, they come to town only for treatment and then they leave,” Hicks said. “They’re not to loiter or be here a long time prior to or after their treatment.”

The D.O.C. recently started a group called Circles of Support and Accountability. COSA is made up of volunteers who go through intense training in order to monitor one convicted sex offender for a year.

Hicks said she thinks some community members may have heard about COSA and confused the group and its meeting site with the Morehead Inspiration Center.

Men who seek recovery from long-term substance abuse can get residential treatment through Pathways at The Morehead Inspiration Center.

“That is completely separate from Corrections,” she said. “That has nothing to do with us. Apparently that’s a private entity so we didn’t even know anything about it.”

Hicks started to pay more attention to what the inspiration center was about when she got a warning that community members do not want sex offenders meeting in their town.

“We had a call from the current county judge-executive to advise us that there was a group of women who were considering picketing our office,” she said. “Of course, we have to not only protect the community but we have to protect our staff and we have to provide a safe environment for treatment to occur for the offenders to be willing to do what they need to do.

“So at that point the unintended consequence, at least I believe it was unintended, was we had to shut our doors for two weeks. We had offenders that weren’t getting treatment for two weeks.”

Hicks said it is important for sex offenders to get consistent treatment because the treatment helps keep them from reoffending.

No one ended up picketing the Morehead community treatment site.

Hicks said she understands how people could be concerned about a group of sex offenders coming from other counties to meet in Morehead.

“I think sometimes misinformation, unfortunately, can create problems that don’t need to be there,” she said. “Any opportunity we have to educate people about what we do and how we do that, I think, is important because we are providing a community service.”

Moore said her number one priority is to keep local children safe from convicted sex offenders.

“We’ve had some offenders come in because they’re having thoughts or are doing things that they know is not healthy and they seek help,” she said. “To me, that’s success.”

For a complete listing of Carter County sex offenders, http://kspsor.state.ky.us for more information.

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