Monday, May 13, 2013

Treatment center for sexually violent predators has Hulmeville residents upset

Posted: Monday, May 6, 2013



In tiny Hulmeville — population 1,006 — secrets are hard to keep, which is why news that an outpatient treatment center for sexually violent predators has been operating here has caught many people by surprise and has caused quite a commotion.
Last week at least 350 fliers were hand-distributed throughout the half-square-mile borough, which sits between Bensalem and Middletown, urging residents to attend Monday’s Hulmeville Borough Council meeting to demand that the landlord terminate the lease with the counseling center.
Resources for Human Development, which rents space in a Reetz Avenue office building, is one of four behavioral health providers with state certification to treat individuals deemed sexually violent predators under the state’s Megan’s Law. Other Bucks County providers are in Newtown, Newtown Township and Doylestown Township, according to the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, which approves the centers.
RHD provides an array of human and behavioral services including programs for recovering substance abusers, the homeless and people with intellectual disabilities, according to its website.   
The agency operates centers specializing in treatment and interventions for people with “problematic sexual behaviors and family abuse” also in Montgomery County and Philadelphia, according to its website. Referral sources include probation and parole offices.
Pennsylvania is among the 16 states that have adopted the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which defines a sexually violent predator as a person convicted of a sexually violent offense and whom is deemed likely to engage in predatory behavior.
Under the law, SVPs, as they are known, once released from prison are required to attend at least monthly outpatient counseling sessions in a program approved by the state’s Sexual Offenders Assessment Board. The offenders are financially responsible for counseling fees.
The Hulmeville-based counseling center has been operating for about two years and its lease runs through next year, according to sources. It’s unknown how many sexually violent predators the center treats.
RHD’s director, Mary Young, a licensed social worker, declined comment about the center when reached last week. The newspaper was also unsuccessful in reaching a representative of BestCo Corp. Home, which owns the building where the center is located.
But resident Marcy Downey has plenty to say about the center, which is across the street from her house and fewer than two miles from Hoover Elementary School.
She found out about the center about a month ago after she and a neighbor were outside watching their kids play. They noticed a large group of people were waiting in the office parking lot on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
Downey wondered what was happening to attract such a crowd, so she did an Internet search. When she learned about Resources for Human Development she was shocked.
Then Downey became angry when she learned that borough officials, the police department, even state police who also patrol the borough didn’t know about the center.
“The entire neighborhood is unaware of it,” she said. “It’s just scary. This is not a town that needs that. There are plenty of other places they can be.”
Hulmeville Mayor David Harris last week said that he didn’t know about the counseling center until Downey brought it to his attention. He has contacted the borough’s zoning officer because the center has not obtained an occupancy permit, a requirement to operate a business.
“If that is the only type of counseling (offered), yes, it does concern me as a father and grandfather,” Harris added.
But, the mayor added, that the building where the counseling center is located in a commercial/industrial zone, which may be an allowed use. In addition to checking zoning requirements the zoning officer is checking to see if the center meets occupancy limits.
Meghan Dade, Pennsylvania’s executive director of the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, is unaware of any state restrictions on where SVP providers can be located, but a local municipality may impose zoning restrictions.
“These are sex offenders who are in treatment, who are doing the right thing, and trying to seek help and stay on the straight and narrow,” she added.

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