SALEM &

The state is close to approving a Corrections Department budget that includes money to expand the state's chemical castration program.




If passed, the state would pay for high-risk sex offenders to receive twice-monthly shots of Depo-Provera, a testosterone-reducing drug.




Oregon has had a chemical castration law since 1999. But use of the drug has been spotty because of a lack of a money and opposition from doctors and counselors.




Sen. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, the chief sponsor of the 1999 bill, is leading the effort to add $150,000 to the program, saying it's been effective when used. Schrader said he wants the injections to be required as a condition of post-prison supervision for about 20 offenders per month &

up from the current five per month &

in a pilot program that would include Multnomah County and two other counties that have not been determined.




"Since it has been pretty darn successful, we want to see if there's a larger population we can use it on to keep people safe when these guys get out of jail," he said.




Depo-Provera, originally developed as a contraceptive for women, creates sexual apathy in men by reducing the level of testosterone. European countries have used the drug since the 1960s to treat sex offenders. It's less popular in the U.S., and Oregon is one of fewer than 10 states reported to have chemical castration laws.




Even if the programs gets expanded, drug treatment would remain limited to a fraction of the 3,000 sex offenders supervised by parole and probation officers in Oregon, corrections officials said.




Sex offenders would be medically screened and evaluated prior to their prison release dates to determine whether they were suited for drug therapy, said Scott Taylor, community corrections director for the state Department of Corrections.




Taylor said ideal candidates are high-risk offenders who show little ability to manage their impulses. "These are the people who we have the greatest fear of committing another crime," he said. "And that's what we're trying to stop."




As it stands, Depo-Provera injections are required as a condition of post-prison supervision for 105 sex offenders, state statistics show.




But Taylor said fewer than a quarter of those offenders are taking the drug at a given time. Taylor said the Corrections Department has met resistance from therapists who work with sex offenders and doctors who are unwilling to administer Depo-Provera.




"That's been one of the biggest issues, a whole group of physicians who do not want to be the ones giving these injections," he said.




Also playing a part in the scant use of Depo-Provera has been the cost of treatment. Many offenders lack the money to pay for required shots.




Schrader anticipates that the number of offenders taking the drug will increase with state-subsidized treatment. The Democrat says he's not concerned about the objections from doctors and therapists.