Two longtime SCC psychologists appointed to key state treatment board

Dr. Paul Yanisch and Dr. Holly Coryell of the Special Commitment Center have been appointed to the Washington Sex Offender Treatment Provider Advisory Committee.

A pair of longtime psychologists at the Special Commitment Center were chosen in February to serve on a prestigious committee that advises lawmakers on how to maintain a strong workforce of certified sex offender treatment providers and provide recommendations for the delivery of treatment for sex offenders in Washington.

The selection of Dr. Dan Yanisch and Dr. Holly Coryell to the 10-member Washington Sex Offender Treatment Provider Advisory Committee is an honor that will enable two prominent doctors from the McNeil Island facility to help shape guidelines for treatment and community protection.

Two of Coryell’s professional colleagues and friends served on the original advisory committee.

“For years I heard about the important work of this group and hoped to serve on the committee myself someday,” she said.

The committee will meet for the first time in March after being reinstated recently by the state Legislature. It was previously active in 2004 and disbanded due to budget cuts in 2009 by former Gov. Christine Gregoire.

Coryell is the official Department of Social and Health Services representative; Yanisch is one of three certified sex offender treatment providers on the committee. Other members include a superior court judge, a mental health practitioner who specializes in treating sexual assault victims, defense and prosecuting attorneys and representatives from the Department of Children, Youth and Families and the Department of Corrections.

Yanisch is a forensic evaluator at SCC and has been the facility’s forensic services manager, in addition to having run a private practice for a number of years. He said that variety of experience gives him a unique perspective among committee members.

“I am familiar with different institutions in this state, I’m familiar with DSHS and the SCC, and I’ve had a lot of contact with the Department of Corrections over the years,” he said. “I think it is that background that was appealing to those who were making the selections. It’s going to be a challenge to pick up after 10 or 11 years have gone by, but I am excited to see what happens and I’m looking forward to working with all those people.”

Yanisch and Coryell have a long history of working together and are two of the Special Commitment Center’s longest-serving employees. He joined SCC in 1998, and at one time supervised Coryell, who came to the facility in 2001 and worked as a forensic evaluator under Yanisch in 2004. Coryell is now chief of forensic services and supervises Yanisch.

“What resonates with me when he was forensic services manager is his leadership style,” Coryell said. “He is a pillar of calm and patience. When there were legal challenges to our work his reputation as someone with top-notch expertise in the area of sex offense treatment and evaluation was a great help to the team.”

Coryell became chief of forensic services in 2016, but was in competition with her mentor to get the position.

“I’m glad that she got the position instead of me because she’s a strong advocate for the evaluators and knows how to work things at the administration level and she goes to bat for us if we need,” Yanisch said. “We’re all pretty independent and self-motivated, but if our unit needs any sort of assistance or coordination with other parts of the facility she knows who to go to and fights for us.”

After two decades of working together, Coryell and Yanisch will help shape policy for sex offender treatment in the adopted home state. Yanisch came to Washington after attending the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. Coryell came here from Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., for an internship at Western State Hospital. Back then she planned to return to the East Coast to practice psychology. Now she considers Washington home.

“I have no plans to return to the East Coast,” Coryell said. “In September I will have 20 years with the state and I’m very happy and very much enjoying working for DSHS, for the Behavioral Health Administration and the Special Commitment Center and all of its leadership. This is a great honor.”

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