Allegations of sexual and financial improprieties in a substance abuse treatment program have prompted the Sedgwick County Department of Corrections to stop referring probationers to the program, an official said Monday.
County Department of Corrections director Mark Masterson said he halted referrals to Parallax Program Inc. a couple weeks ago after learning of a state investigation into the allegations.
The halt in referrals applies to so-called Senate Bill 123 clients: lower-level offenders who have been convicted of drug crimes and receive probation and substance abuse treatment rather than being sent to prison.
Meanwhile, the county has been able to send the probationers to other providers, Masterson said. There are more than 30 approved providers in the county for SB 123 clients, he said.
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Most of those clients receive some sort of outpatient treatment. They each pay a $300 fee to the state, which funds their inpatient or outpatient treatment.
Masterson said he decided to stop referrals to Parallax until he receives definitive information about the allegations and the investigation, which is being done by the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, or SRS.
Masterson said he chose to "take a cautious approach until we have more information, and we hope to have that information very soon."
Meanwhile, the county department has decided to leave 14 clients — six women and eight men — in the Parallax program after interviewing them about their experiences at Parallax.
"We found no reason to remove clients from the program while we await formal results of the investigation," Masterson said.
SRS has declined to discuss the allegations involving Parallax — a nonprofit provider of inpatient, outpatient and detoxification services that has been operating in Wichita for nearly 40 years.
Parallax receives city, state and federal funding.
The Eagle on Sunday reported detailed allegations of seven former Parallax clients or staff who say that during the past five years they found a pervasive atmosphere of sexual harassment or abuse.
Another accusation is that some people, including a registered sex offender, were working as Parallax counselors when they lacked proper credentials or were unfit for the role. Parallax submitted claims for services as if the counselors had proper credentials, according to the allegation.
Many of the allegations pertain to Milt Fowler, the 65-year-old Parallax founder and chief executive officer.
Several women who are former Parallax clients or staff members submitted statements to investigators and the Parallax board detailing their allegations. They accused Fowler of touching them inappropriately and sending text messages with graphic sexual content.
Fowler has not responded to repeated messages seeking comment.
Board president Danny Bardezbain has declined to comment on Fowler's status or the allegations, citing the SRS investigation.
It's not clear when the investigation will be completed.