(Chicago) – Highlighting the value of evidence-based alternatives to incarceration for people with substance use disorders, TASC hosted a three-day visit last week of representatives from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the U.S. State Department, the Organization of American States, and the judiciary of India.
Through conversations and site visits with justice and service partners in Cook and Lake counties, the visit highlighted the necessity of coordinated linkages between public health and justice systems.
In Illinois, TASC serves some 27,000 people each year by serving as a bridge between public systems and health services in the community.
“By the nature of what we do at TASC, and by the very definition of case management, we know that we cannot do our work alone,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “Our successes come about through the combined efforts of partners who design and implement sound policies and practices every day.”
Partnerships highlighted during last week’s visit included prosecutorial diversion programs led by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office; strategies led by the Cook County Public Defender’s Office; Lake County’s A Way Out initiative organized by police, prosecutors, and the health department; Medicaid enrollment, treatment, and continuity of care at the point of release from jail, led by the Cook County Department of Corrections; alternative sentencing and problem-solving courts within the criminal division of the Circuit Court of Cook County; and community-based treatment, along with TASC case management.
The purpose of the visit was to highlight core components and strategies of successful alternatives to incarceration for people with substance use disorders. The team of visitors included Charlotte A. Sisson, senior foreign affairs officer with the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) at the U.S. Department of State; Richard Baum, international division director with ONDCP; Antonio Lomba, acting chief of the Institutional Strengthening and Policy Coordination Section with the Organization of American States; and Chritharth Palli, law clerk to Justice T.S.Thakur, 43rd Chief Justice of India. Melody M. Heaps, president of MMH & Associates, worked closely with Rodriguez and TASC leaders to plan the visit.
For more than a decade, TASC has worked with federal and international partners to promote community-based systems of addiction recovery around the world. Through the leadership and support of INL, TASC Vice President George Williams has led curriculum development and week-long training events provided by TASC teams in South Africa, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Rodriguez and Williams direct TASC’s international activities, working alongside partners at INL, ONDCP, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, the Colombo Plan, and MMH & Associates.
Together, these entities share the goal of reducing substance use disorders and their consequences worldwide.
Rodriguez noted that local strategies and successes can elevate conversations at national and international levels. “We are grateful for the tremendous partnerships in Cook and Lake counties that showcase what system-wide interventions can do,” said Rodriguez. “It is gratifying to know that our work here can have an impact for families and communities around the world.”