Addiction Policy Forum and National Criminal Justice Association Partner to Translate Opioid Research to Practice

[On Monday, August 8 from 1:45-3:15 PM EDT (12:45-2:15 PM Central), the National Forum on Criminal Justice will livestream a panel discussion on Strategies for Combating the Opioid Epidemic. TASC President Pam Rodriguez is among the speakers. Register for livestream.]

The Addiction Policy Forum and the National Criminal Justice Association have announced a new partnership, the Translating Science into Practice Project, which will focus on translating the current research on opioid addiction and treatment into policy and practice in the field.

TASC is an active partner with the Addiction Policy Forum, which is comprised of organizations, policymakers, and stakeholders committed to comprehensive approaches to addiction prevention, treatment, recovery, and criminal justice reform.

The first step in the Translating Science into Practice Project is a livestream session on alternatives to incarceration during the National Forum on Criminal Justice in Philadelphia on August 8.  TASC President Pam Rodriguez, a leading voice in advancing front-end criminal justice diversion strategies, is among the expert panelists in this session. TASC has been involved in both studying diversion and in implementing innovative programming nationally as well as in its home state of Illinois.

The forum will be followed by a five-webinar series in the fall of 2016 that will provide policymakers and practitioners with details about policies that are working to reduce and treat addiction, including to prescription drugs, heroin and other opioids.

The Addiction Policy Forum has identified 11 practices across six key elements of addressing addiction: prevention, treatment, overdose reversal, recovery, law enforcement, and criminal justice reform. The state criminal justice administering agencies represented by the National Criminal Justice Association conduct comprehensive statewide planning and fund innovative, data-driven criminal justice policies and practices. They are engaged in finding and funding solutions to the opioid epidemic.

In collaboration with the Addiction Policy Forum, the Center for Health and Justice at TASC served as a partner in planning and facilitating briefings on addiction treatment and recovery, which contributed to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, introduced originally in 2014 by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), and signed into law on July 22 by President Barack Obama.

 (Source: Addiction Policy Forum)

New Law Removes Barrier to Restored Citizenship for Eligible TASC Clients

(Chicago) – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has approved a bill aiming to prevent the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction for TASC clients who have successfully completed probation, including alcohol or drug treatment.

SB2601, sponsored by Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3) and State Rep. Sonya Harper (D-6), extends the time period during which qualified program participants can ask the court to have their sentence “vacated,” or cancelled. Only participants without a previous felony conviction on record who have not already had a judgment vacated under the program may request this option.

Under the old law, requests to have a judgment vacated had to be submitted within 30 days after adjudication of the case (i.e., within 30 days of the person being sentenced to probation). In practice, this often proved a nearly impossible condition to meet, with an arbitrarily short deadline. A judge is not allowed to grant this type of request until after a participant has completed TASC’s program requirements and been discharged successfully from probation, which usually occurs 12-18 months after sentencing.

Under the new law, individuals will have until 60 days following successful discharge from probation to submit a request. It takes effect on January 1, 2017.

“Now, people who have worked all the way through the program—completing substance use treatment and fulfilling all of the other conditions of probation—won’t be automatically blocked from embarking on a pathway to restored citizenship,” said Laura Brookes, TASC’s policy director.

TASC’s court program is a longstanding alternative-to-incarceration option available to judges under Illinois law for sentencing individuals with substance use problems who are charged with certain non-violent offenses. On average, Illinois judges divert approximately 1,800 people each year to probation with addiction treatment and TASC case management instead of sending them to prison, saving the state millions of dollars in prevented incarceration costs, and connecting individuals to the services needed to address the substance use problems often correlated with their offenses.

A criminal conviction results in a host of long-lasting collateral consequences that dampen prospects of securing a job, finding stable housing, obtaining employment training or education—the very things needed to attain productive community citizenship. The American Bar Association catalogues thousands of such collateral consequences, and Illinois policymakers have passed many measures designed to eliminate them or mitigate their impacts, such as options for criminal record sealing and expungement and certificates of good conduct or relief from disability.

 

TASC Consulting Supports New White House Data-Driven Justice Initiative

(Chicago) – On June 30, the White House launched the Data-Driven Justice Initiative with a bipartisan coalition of 67 city, county, and state governments who have committed to using data-driven strategies to divert low-level offenders with mental illness out of the criminal justice system. Coalition participants are changing approaches to pretrial incarceration so that people with lower-level charges no longer stay in jail simply because they cannot afford a bond.

These innovative strategies, which have measurably reduced jail populations in several communities, help stabilize individuals and families, better serve communities, and often save money in the process.

“The Data-Driven Justice communities are leading by example by committing to adopt these proven strategies that reduce unnecessary arrests and incarceration. These approaches provide much needed stability to individuals and families, and make our communities stronger while saving taxpayer dollars,” ‎said DJ Patil, U.S. Chief Data Scientist.

To help advance these efforts, TASC responded to the White House’s call to action and will provide telephone and on-site consulting to several jurisdictions within the coalition that are developing data-driven diversion practices.

“We are thrilled to be working with the White House and with partners across the country to support good diversion policies and practices, based on the evidence of what works,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez.

The DDJ communities will implement the following strategies that have proven to be effective in reducing unnecessary incarceration in jails:

  • Use data to identify and proactively break the cycle of incarceration. DDJ communities will bring data together from across criminal justice and health systems to identify the individuals with the highest number of contacts with police, ambulance, emergency departments, and other services, and link them to health, behavioral health, and social services in the community, with a goal of reducing over-reliance on emergency healthcare and encounters with the criminal justice system.
  • Equip law enforcement and first responders with the tools they need to respond and divert. Recognizing that police officers, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and firefighters are often front-line responders to people experiencing mental health crises, DDJ communities will create systems and protocols to help effectively de-escalate crisis situations and safely divert people to the appropriate service providers instead of arresting them.
  • Use data-driven, validated, pretrial risk assessment tools to inform pretrial release decisions. DDJ communities will work towards using objective, data-driven, validated risk-assessment tools to identify low-risk defendants held in jail and identify opportunities for their safe release.

“Just as the power of ‘big data’ is being used in the private sector to have greater insight and impact than ever before on their decision making, so too is it the right time for it be put to use by criminal justice decision makers for the same reasons,” said Jac Charlier, who directs training and consulting services for the Center for Health and Justice at TASC. “The vision of safer communities and our citizens leading better lives is very compelling.”

Each year, more than 11 million people move through America’s 3,100 local jails, many on low-level, non-violent misdemeanors, costing local governments approximately $22 billion a year.

Leveraging the opportunities of Medicaid expansion, TASC and its Center for Health and Justice have been working with local, state, and national partners to develop and implement strategies to safely divert people out of the justice system as early as possible.

Maureen McDonnell, who directs healthcare strategies for TASC and provides consulting services nationally, sees the tremendous advances possible through such diversion strategies.

“Through coordinated efforts taking place within jurisdictions across the country, millions of people with substance use and mental health disorders ultimately can be diverted away from the front end of the justice system and into appropriate care in the community,” she said. “This is a very exciting time.”

(left to right): TASC’s Jac Charlier, Pam Rodriguez, and Maureen McDonnell participated in the Data-Driven Justice inaugural workshop at the White House on June 13.

(left to right): TASC’s Jac Charlier, Pam Rodriguez, and Maureen McDonnell participated in the Data-Driven Justice inaugural workshop at the White House on June 13.

Paths to Addiction Treatment Fraught With Barriers; Misinformed Expectations Can Set Up Disappointment

(Chicago) – For people in need of addiction treatment, and for families struggling to find help for a loved one, the barriers can be overwhelming.

Desperation can lead families to fall prey to unsavory treatment marketing practices, reported Alison Knopf in the June 13 edition of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly. The issue’s lead article describes how a Florida treatment center targets Illinois patients who have out-of-network insurance, which has no contract-based cost limitations.

TASC’s Peter Palanca was one of the experts quoted:

“These are predatory marketing tactics,” said Peter Palanca, executive vice president and chief operating officer of TASC, based in Chicago. “I don’t think there’s any question about that,” he told ADAW. “To prey on families who are scared to death, grasping at straws, terrified about their son or daughter dying” is wrong, he said.

Knopf also spoke with Illinois experts Kathie Kane-Willis, director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University; Jud DeLoss, external counsel for the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, and Phil Eaton, president and CEO of Rosecrance, all of whom expressed concern over certain business models and tactics that take advantage of uninformed consumers. The treatment center in Florida, for example, employs a full-time Midwest outreach coordinator, making Illinois the center’s main referral source.

“You shouldn’t have to get on a plane to get treatment,” advised TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “Recovery doesn’t happen magically in a program far away from home. It’s a long process involving changes in physiology, changes in behavior, changes in relationships, and changes in many other aspects of a person’s life. Ultimately, it happens day by day, in the community where people live and work and learn.”

Common barriers to entering treatment can be external influences, such as lack of access, funding, or time, or internal factors, such as stigma, depression, and personal beliefs. These barriers may be compounded by variables such as insurance coverage, geography, race and ethnicity, genderage, and other factors.

Misinformed expectations about treatment also contribute to people not getting to into treatment, or not getting the treatment that works for them, said Rodriguez.

The biggest misconception about treatment is that it’s going to magically fix you,” she said. “People often have wrong expectations about what’s going to happen as a result of going to treatment. You don’t go to treatment to get fixed. You go to treatment to learn entirely new ways to live your life. And that can be scary and difficult.

“You need to find treatment that feels right for you,” she added. “If your gut says it isn’t right, it probably isn’t. Just as with any other health issue, you might go through a few doctors before you find one that works for you. It’s the same with treatment.”

The Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse publishes a county-by-county list of substance use disorder treatment programs. Nationwide, call or visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP.

Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County Supports Connections from Jail to Drug Treatment

(Waukegan, IL) – The Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County has awarded a second year of funding to TASC to help individuals get into substance use and mental health treatment after leaving the Lake County Jail.

The program, initiated in 2015 as a partnership among TASC, Lake County officials, and community-based service providers, helps ensure access to treatment for individuals charged with non-violent offenses. Working inside the jail, TASC’s care coordinator conducts clinical assessments and connects eligible program participants with appropriate community-based treatment providers.

During the weeks immediately following release from jail, individuals are at increased risk for overdose. Additionally, risks are elevated for costly hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and detoxification episodes. By connecting people to appropriate care in the community, this program reduces those risks and costs, and helps individuals begin the path to recovery, health, and self-sufficiency.

The initiative complements other efforts in Lake County to reach individuals with substance use and mental health issues, including drug courts, mental health courts, and training for first responders on the signs and symptoms of mental illness.

“Whether we’re reaching people in jail, in courts, or in the community, our goal is to help individuals get into treatment and on the path to recovery,” said Karen Notko, administrator for TASC services in Lake County.

This initiative is a partnership between TASC, the Lake County Jail, Adult Court Services, Assistant State’s Attorney, Behavioral Treatment Court Collaborative, Health Department, and Public Defender’s Office, as well as Nicasa, PADS, and many other treatment providers and community groups. It is funded by the Healthcare Foundation of Northern Lake County.

TASC is a statewide, nonprofit organization that serves and advocates for people involved in criminal justice and child welfare systems who have mental health and substance use disorders.

Best Practices for Jail Medicaid Enrollment: TASC in Modern Healthcare Article

(Chicago) Modern Healthcare has published an article on best practices for Medicaid enrollment at jail intake, noting approaches which TASC has helped implement in Cook County and is sharing with other jurisdictions around the country.

Harris Meyer writes:

Like inmates throughout the country, most people entering the Louisville Metro Jail lack health insurance and many suffer from long-untreated chronic conditions.

At least partly as a result, some people, particularly those with serious mental illness and drug or alcohol addiction, keep getting re-arrested and returning to jail, increasing costs to taxpayers.

In Louisville, Kentucky, there are processes to sign up people for Medicaid at jail intake, as well as provide support at release for individuals with multiple needs who often cycle in and out of jail. The program is based on initiatives begun at Cook County Jail in Chicago.

In these locations and in a number of jurisdictions across the country, the aim is to increase the number of people who have Medicaid when they are released from jail, so as to improve their access to healthcare in the community and reduce their likelihood of recidivism.

…But there are tough challenges, including poor coordination between local jail authorities and state Medicaid agencies, lack of funding to hire enrollment assisters, and chaotic conditions during jail intake, said Maureen McDonnell of the Chicago-based not-for-profit Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities. In addition, there is sometimes political opposition to offering public health insurance to accused lawbreakers.

“Typically, these programs start with a motivated jail director, county commissioner or county behavioral health director who sees the writing on the wall about how many people have substance abuse and mental health conditions,” said McDonnell, who advises jail officials around the country in starting Medicaid enrollment programs. “The current national focus on mental health and substance abuse is helping a lot.”

Through these collaborative approaches, and with Medicaid coverage, people with long-untreated substance use, mental health, and other medical conditions may have new means to access healthcare services. Read the full article at modernhealthcare.com.
Modern Healthcare (MH) best practices for helping people in jail get Medicaid, including input from TASC. Source and image credit: Modern Healthcare

Modern Healthcare (MH) best practices for helping people in jail get Medicaid, including input from TASC. Source and image credit: Modern Healthcare

 

Public Support Grows for Criminal Justice Diversion Initiatives

(Chicago) – A recent poll of Illinois voters indicates strong support for criminal justice reform. More than two thirds (70 percent) agree that state prisons are overcrowded and require reform for people with non-violent offenses, and four in five (83 percent) support sending fewer individuals with low-risk, non-violent offenses to prison so that state funding can be used to keep people who have committed violent offenses incarcerated for their full sentences.

The number of people behind bars in the U.S. has grown more than 500 percent over the past four decades, and U.S. incarceration rate tops the charts. In line with public opinion, policymakers are reversing their appetite for tough-on-crime policies that have fueled record incarceration rates. In fact, criminal justice reform stands apart as one of the only issues on which individuals across political parties are unified in their support.

There also is a growing understanding of the extremely high rates of substance use and mental health disorders among people involved in the criminal justice system, and of the need to address these problems earlier in the lifespan as a critical part of criminal justice reforms, before medical and behavioral health problems become advanced, and before the often lifelong collateral consequences of a conviction block individuals’ efforts to reenter communities, lead productive lives, and avoid future criminal behavior, re-arrest, and re-incarceration.

In 2013, TASC’s Center for Health and Justice (CHJ) conducted a national survey of criminal justice diversion programs and practices, to explore the landscape of diversion at the front end of the system—by law enforcement, by prosecutors and pre-trial service agencies, and by courts. CHJ is currently conducting an Illinois survey to explore the use of diversion programs and practices at phases of justice system involvement prior to conviction and sentencing, with a special focus on those operated by prosecutors, and plans to release a report with findings and recommendations later this year.

Poll of Illinois voters shows overwhelming support for criminal justice reform. Source and image credit: U.S. Justice Action Network

Poll of Illinois voters shows overwhelming support for criminal justice reform. Source and image credit: U.S. Justice Action Network