Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter, Walgreens’ Steve Pemberton Honored at TASC 2014 Celebration

TASC's 2014 Honorees:  Steve Pemberton (left), Public Voice Leadership Award; Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter, Justice Leadership Award.  Photo by Uk Studio.

TASC’s 2014 Honorees: Steve Pemberton (left), Public Voice Leadership Award; Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter, Justice Leadership Award. Photo by Uk Studio.

(Chicago) – With more than 300 guest in attendance, Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3) and author and Walgreens executive Steve Pemberton accepted TASC’s 2014 Leadership Awards at the agency’s annual luncheon at the Westin Michigan Avenue on December 10.

“From supporting smart diversion policies to building up services in communities, Senator Hunter is a champion for the work that brings us all here today,” said TASC President Pamela Rodriguez in presenting TASC’s Justice Leadership Award to Senator Hunter. “She leads legislation that considers the core issues that contribute to cycles of criminal justice involvement, and steers public policy solutions to offer practical, meaningful responses for communities.”

Senator Hunter placed the issue of justice in context. “When we talk about justice, many people think of courts, jails, and prisons. But there are a lot of issues that lead up to criminal justice,” she said. “Poverty, behavioral health, education, unemployment. When we don’t take care of these issues, we don’t have justice.

“There’s no reason to have a revolving door of drugs and crime,” she said. “We all can be part of the solution. By strengthening services in the community, and by creating fair public policies, we shape a better society for people today.”

TASC’s Public Voice honoree, Steve Pemberton, is chief diversity officer and divisional vice president for Walgreens. Raised in abusive foster care situations, Pemberson details his experiences in his book, A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home.

In spite of the pain revealed in its pages, “Steve’s book is far from tragic,” said TASC Executive Vice President and COO Peter Palanca. “It contains a powerful story of strength, resiliency, and hope. Steve’s story says that those still suffering are not alone, and it highlights the importance of connected and accountable systems of care.”

In accepting his award, Pemberton said that as he was growing up, he was called a lot of things — “that I’m ugly, I’m broken, and beyond repair. But as TASC proves, no child is ugly, no child is broken, and no child is beyond repair. They were born under circumstances and into situations that they did not ask for, that they did not create, and that none of us would really want for our own children.”

He offered encouragement and praise for organizations and people who help, saying, “The work is not glamorous. We romanticize so many things in our world today. This work is difficult and it’s eminently challenging.”

But there is hope, Pemberton emphasized.

“No one can bring my mother and father back to me, and no one can bring my childhood to me… but I can prove two things without a shadow of a doubt —that their life was not in vain, and that new beginnings are possible.”

“Steve Pemberton and Senator Hunter exemplify why we present our annual awards,” said Rodriguez. “We do this work with the partnership and support of old friends and new — from service providers to government leaders to corporate partners and individuals — and we succeed with the help of exceptional leaders.”

TASC thanks its many generous sponsors, organizations, and individuals who helped make this year’s event the most successful to date. Contributions to TASC suport the agency’s services across Illinois.

For more information on TASC, please visit tasc.org.

Sangamon County Drug Court Celebrates Four Years

The Sangamon County drug court team - including TASC and county staff, as well as treatment providers - celebrated the county's fourth drug court graduation with a guest appearance by Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL13).

The Sangamon County drug court team celebrated the program’s fourth anniversary in October.

(Springfield) — The Sangamon County drug court recently celebrated its fourth year, graduating three participants and commending the successes of past graduates.

The October 24 celebration took place in the Springfield courthouse, drawing graduates’ families and friends, past graduates, and drug court staff.

The goal of the drug court, presided over by Circuit Judge Peter Cavanagh, is to reduce the cycle of arrests and incarcerations among participants via comprehensive clinical services provided by a team of partners.

Speakers at the graduation included Judge Cavanagh, drug court staff, and program graduates. In addition, Congressman Davis (R-IL13) made a guest appearance, commending the drug court for its life-changing work and congratulating past and present graduates.

“Life is about second chances,” said Congressman Davis. “You [graduates] can achieve any dream you have. Believe in yourself and dream big.”

Since 2010, the Sangamon County drug court has held three graduations that celebrated the success of 12 graduates. None of the first 12 graduates had been re-arrested or tested positive for any illicit substances, according to a 2013 report of the county’s drug court implementation and program outcomes.

The Sangamon County drug court was created in October 2010 as a plan for more effective and coordinated programs and services for people with substance use disorders. It features communication and service linkages across criminal justice, mental health and addiction treatment, and community services.

Drug courts typically are built on collaboration among judges, prosecutors, and community-based drug treatment providers. Sangamon County’s program is distinct in that the team also includes a representative from the defense bar and a local mental health representative.

As part of the drug court team, TASC conducts clinical assessments of eligible participants and provides input on treatment progress and successful community reentry.

A cost-effective alternative to traditional court case processing and sentencing for eligible participants, the drug court seeks to improve public safety, reduce recidivism rates, reduce crime and substance use, and engage resources and service partners in the community.

The Sangamon County drug court has been funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance and, most recently, Adult Redeploy Illinois.

Pamela Rodriguez Op-Ed in Daily Herald: Is Illinois Ready for Criminal Justice Reform?

In a guest opinion-editorial for the Daily Herald, TASC President Pamela Rodriguez discusses the timely and promising opportunities for criminal justice reform in Illinois.

The General Assembly’s new Joint Criminal Justice Reform Committee, chaired by State Rep. Michael J. Zalewski (D-Riverside) and State Senator Michael Noland (D-Elgin), recognizes the need to reduce incarceration of non-violent offenders and those who struggle with mental illness and addiction, asserts Rodriguez. “We can begin to make significant reforms that allow people to get treatment for behavioral health issues as soon as or even before they come in contact with the criminal justice system,” she writes.

Read Rodriguez’s op-ed, including the unique opportunities for reform presented by Medicaid expansion.

New Illinois Law Automatically Expunges Records of Juvenile Arrests That Don’t Lead to Convictions

(Chicago) – In early June, Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation to automatically clear arrest records for less serious, non-violent juvenile cases that do not lead to convictions, providing a “clean slate” to young people and avoiding a permanent, professional handicap weighing on their future.

“Many young residents are arrested each year for minor offenses that have the potential to negatively affect their future,” Quinn said upon signing the bill. “These juveniles are often unaware that the record of their arrest can follow them into adulthood.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 978, sponsored by State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) and State Representative Art Turner (D-Chicago), automatically clears juvenile arrest records for youth who have since turned 18 years old and have not incurred other subsequent arrests or juvenile delinquency charges in the past six months. Serious felony offenses and sex offenses are ineligible for automatic expungement.

“The substance of juvenile expungement was already on the books, but required lengthy, expensive, and unnecessary legal red tape to achieve,” said TASC President Pamela Rodriguez. “The new law eliminates the burden of going through the time-consuming process of court to expunge his or her arrest record for minor offenses that were not proven.”

Rodriguez added that the new law eliminates a major obstacle on a youth’s path to adulthood.

Raoul hailed Quinn for his “swift action.”

“I’d like to thank the Governor for his swift action in bringing about this forward-thinking change in law,” said Raoul, “which is a step towards ensuring our young adults who are doing the right thing in pursuing opportunities to advance themselves are not handicapped with a criminal record for an offense that was never pursued by prosecutors.”

The new law is effective January 1, 2015.

Highlights from Celebrations of Recovery Month 2014 in Illinois

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of National Recovery Month, communities and organizations across Illinois have hosted various events to celebrate recovery from mental health and substance use disorders. Over the past two Saturdays, TASC was engaged in events in Chicago, Rockford, and University Park.

Pictured left to right, back row: Derrick Watson, Rev. Tommie Johnson Middle row: Mike Seeler, Alicia Fiestamel, Debra Hammer, Miki Hendricks, Angela Daniels Front row:  Peter Palanca; Benneth Lee

TASC staff at the September 20 Walk for Recovery at Governors State University in University Park, Illinois.  From left to right, back row: Derrick Watson, Rev. Tommie Johnson.  Middle row: Michael Seeler, Alicia Feistamel, Debra Hammer, Micki Hendricks, Angela Daniels.  Front row: Peter Palanca; Benneth Lee.

On September 20, the Governors State University (GSU) Addiction Studies Alumni Club hosted its third annual Walk for Recovery in University Park, drawing more than 250 people. Led by TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca as Master of Ceremonies, the event honored individuals in recovery as well as treatment providers dedicated to helping those seeking recovery. In the spirit of this year’s Recovery Month theme — Join the Voices for Recovery: Speak Up, Reach Out! — event speakers also encouraged citizens to continue to speak up on behalf of those in need of services.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 23 million people over the age of 12 needed treatment for a substance use problem in 2009. Of these, fewer than three million received it at a specialty facility, making the role of organizations like TASC vital for many.

“We know that investing in recovery makes sense,” said Palanca. “When people with alcohol and drug problems get the help and support that they need, we see positive results.”

Palanca, who has served as Master of Ceremonies at the previous GSU Recovery Walks, added that the importance of recovery should be recognized year-round.

“Let’s not stop celebrating recovery as September comes to a close,” said Palanca. “Recovering people and their families are engaging in recovery each and every day with our continued support, guidance, and service.”

People in recovery, family members, community leaders, service providers, and recovery advocates celebrated at the sixth annual Recovery Rally on the Rock, held September 20 in Rockford.

People in recovery, family members, community leaders, service providers, and recovery advocates celebrated at the sixth annual Recovery Rally on the Rock, held September 20 in Rockford.

Also on September 20, the sixth annual Recovery Rally on the Rock took place on the banks of the Rock River. With inspirational speakers, entertainment, prizes, and refreshments, the event celebrates recovery and raises awareness of local resources to prevent and treat substance use and mental health conditions.

The Reverend Tommie Johnson, recovery support services coordinator for TASC, led the annual Winner’s Circle “Outside the Walls” event, which took place Saturday, September 13 in Chicago’s Douglas Park. “Outside the Walls” is a celebration of hope and healing in the spirit of recovery, promoting reconnected families broken by incarceration. The event offered a spiritual atmosphere emphasizing the importance of faith-based consciousness in productive reentry, and featured local gospel artists, food, family activities, and ongoing encouragement for health and wellness.

The keynote inspirational speaker at the September 13 “Outside the Walls” event was Reverend E.F. Ledbetter III, who is the pastor of the historic Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in the South Side of Chicago.

The keynote inspirational speaker at the September 13 “Outside the Walls” event was Reverend E.F. Ledbetter III, who is the pastor of the historic Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in the South Side of Chicago.

“For those engaged in the struggle to get their lives back on track, with all the obstacles they must overcome, it is good to have a moment that they are celebrated and not just tolerated,” said Johnson. “Everyone, no matter who they are, can use some encouragement from time to time.”

National Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective, and that people can and do recover. TASC is a National Recovery Month planning partner.

IL State Sen. Mattie Hunter, Walgreens’ Steve Pemberton to Receive TASC 2014 Leadership Awards

State Senator Mattie Hunter, TASC 2014 Justice Leadership Award Honoree

State Senator Mattie Hunter, TASC 2014 Justice Leadership Award Honoree

(Chicago) – Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3) and author and Walgreens executive Steve Pemberton will receive TASC’s 2014 Leadership Awards at the agency’s annual luncheon on December 10. 

“By their leadership and examples, Senator Hunter and Mr. Pemberton show us what public service looks like,” said TASC President Pamela Rodriguez. “They are powerful advocates for children and families, and we are honored to present them with our 2014 leadership awards.”

Senator Hunter, who will receive TASC’s Justice Leadership Award, is a consistent champion for addiction treatment and fair criminal justice policies. As a State Senator since 2003, she has led efforts to assure funding for addiction treatment, especially within challenging fiscal environments. She also chaired the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission and led its investigation of drug policies that have resulted in the over-representation of minorities in Illinois’ courts and prisons.

Most recently, Senator Hunter secured successful passage in the General Assembly of legislation designed to expand the use of criminal justice diversion programs that connect individuals to community-based services. This bill is a step forward in enacting “No Entry” policies to reverse the flood of people with non-violent offenses entering the justice system.

“We are grateful to Senator Hunter for her leadership in confronting tough challenges,” said Rodriguez. “Whether securing funding for human services or advocating for policies that apply justice more fairly, Senator Hunter has been a trusted friend to the families and communities we seek to serve.”

Steve Pemberton, TASC 2014 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree

Steve Pemberton, TASC 2014 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree

TASC will present its 2104 Public Voice Leadership Award award to Steve Pemberton, chief diversity officer and divisional vice president for Walgreens. Pemberton spent much of his childhood as a ward of the state of Massachusetts. His memoir, A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home (2012) describes his difficult path through foster care and determined search for family.

Pemberton’s story underscores the importance of connected and accountable systems of care, the value in programs and services that protect and support children, and the essential inclusion of opportunities to intervene with parents struggling with substance use disorders or mental illness.

“Mr. Pemberton’s painful childhood journey is one that too many children experience,” said Rodriguez, “and we share in his deep commitment to continually improve the services and systems that affect the lives of vulnerable children.

“There is great hope in his story as well,” she added. “We can also help people come to healing as adults. That is why we do what we do.”

Each year, TASC recognizes outstanding leaders who have demonstrated innovation and courage in addressing some of society’s most pervasive challenges. The agency’s 2014 luncheon will take place Wednesday, December 10 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at The Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

Find out more about the luncheon and sponsorship opportunities and order tickets online. Please call (312) 573-8201 for additional information.

September is National Recovery Month; Join Celebrations Near You

RecoveryMonthBanner

(Chicago) — This year marks the 25th anniversary of National Recovery Month, which promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery from mental and substance use disorders. TASC and partners across Illinois are engaged in numerous activities that are open to the public.

Find an event near you and join in the celebrations.

Some of the 2014 events Illinois include:  (Click on links for event locations and other details.)

Sat. Sept. 13, 11 AM – 4 PM, Chicago. Outside the Walls.

  • Sponsored by the Winners’ Circle, this event offers a spiritual atmosphere to promote the reconnection of families once broken due to incarceration. The event is a full day featuring local gospel artists, food, and family-oriented fun and activities, all in supporting and sustaining efforts to live in health and wellness in the community.

Sat. Sept. 20, 8 AM – noon, University Park. Governors State University’s Addiction Studies Alumni Club Walk for Recovery.

  • Led by TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca as Master of Ceremonies, the annual Walk for Recovery honors individuals recovering and seeking recovery and celebrates the treatment providers committed to helping them. There will be music, entertainment, a resource fair, door prizes, and refreshments. See news release.

Sat. Sept. 20, 11 AM – 4 PM, Rockford. 6th Annual Recovery Rally on the Rock.

  • Join TASC colleagues and community partners in a celebration of fellowship and recovery, featuring speakers, music, desserts, and giveaways.

This year’s Recovery Month theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Speak Up, Reach Out,” encourages people to openly speak up about recovery from mental and substance use disorders. Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective, and that people can and do recover. TASC is a National Recovery Month planning partner.