International Policy Experts Visit TASC, Explore Alternatives to Incarceration

(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.”

TASC and partners welcomed guests from international agencies for a three-day site visit focused on diversion initiatives, jail interventions, and sentencing alternatives in Cook and Lake counties. Left to right: Charlotte Sisson, U.S. State Dept.; George Williams, TASC; Richard Baum, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; Antonio Lomba, Organization of American States; Chritharth Palli, India judiciary; Pamela F. Rodriguez, TASC; Dr. Nneka Jones-Tapia, Cook County Dept. of Corrections; Melody M Heaps, MMH & Associates

Sept. 14-16, 2016: TASC and partners welcomed guests from international agencies for a three-day site visit focused on diversion initiatives, jail interventions, and sentencing alternatives in Cook and Lake counties. Left to right: Charlotte Sisson, U.S. State Dept.; George Williams, TASC; Richard Baum, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; Chritharth Palli, India judiciary; Pam Rodriguez, TASC; Dr. Nneka Jones-Tapia, Cook County Dept. of Corrections; Melody M. Heaps, MMH & Associates; Antonio Lomba, Organization of American States.

 

TASC President Pam Rodriguez (center) describes the roles of case management in connecting justice systems to services in the community.

TASC President Pam Rodriguez (center) describes the roles of case management in connecting justice systems to services in the community.

Fundamentals of Alternatives to Incarceration

(Chicago) – In the United States, the majority of people who come into the criminal justice system have a substance use problem, which is a treatable health condition. As a response to non-violent offenses related to drug use and addiction, there are many alternatives to incarceration that are more effective and less expensive than keeping people behind bars.

“Program models are not enough,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “What’s much harder to sustain—but what’s necessary if we want to achieve real impact—are whole systems where justice partners and health services in the community work together by design.

“Too often,” she added, “the justice system is the first place where people have a chance to get drug treatment and other health services. Adequate health services must be available in the community far before people reach the point of incarceration.”

For cash-strained governments, overburdened justice systems, and communities and families suffering the consequences of addiction, alternative sanctions for non-violent, drug-related offenses make sense.

First, incarceration is costly. In Illinois, it costs an average of $38,000 to keep someone in prison for a year. A single day in the Cook County Jail costs an average of $143, and even more in the segment of the jail that detains people with serious mental illness.

To borrow a term from the medical field, incarceration is iatrogenic, meaning that in and of itself it is harmful. Incarceration usually leaves people worse off—in terms of recidivism risk, job and family disruption, financial destabilization, and more—than when they went in. Even three days in jail has deleterious consequences.

Furthermore, without intervene early on, there are costs and consequences of a criminal conviction that last far beyond the period of incarceration or probation. The American Bar Association keeps a record of these consequences in each state.

Like other chronic health conditions, substance use disorders are treatable. It is estimated that 23 million people in the United States once had an alcohol or drug problem and no longer do.

Among individuals with a drug problem who were sent to TASC’s court and probation services, there was a 71 percent reduction in arrests for drug and property crimes over a two-year period after program enrollment.

“We know that addiction is treatable,” said Rodriguez. “We know that incarceration is expensive and iatrogenic. We also know that there are effective alternatives to incarceration. For these reasons and more, it makes sense to divert eligible individuals with substance use problems out of the justice system and into treatment and recovery support services in the community.”

There are numerous evidence-based practices and policies for preventing and stopping cycles of drug use and crime. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Institute of Behavioral Research at Texas Christian University, and TASC’s Center for Health and Justice are among many entities that publish and promote what works.

“What we know from extensive research and experience is that interventions must be matched to individuals’ risks for reoffending and their clinical needs,” said Rodriguez. “Mismatched interventions—such as the wrong level of care or supervision—not only waste resources, but actually can have the opposite of the intended effect.”

Sept. 14-16, 2016: TASC and partners welcomed guests from international agencies for a three-day site visit focused on diversion initiatives, jail interventions, and sentencing alternatives in Cook and Lake counties. Left to right: Antonio Lomba, Organization of American States; Chritharth Palli, India judiciary; Melody M Heaps, MMH & Associates; Pamela F. Rodriguez, TASC; Charlotte Sisson, U.S. State Dept.; Richard Baum, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

Sept. 14-16, 2016: TASC and partners welcomed guests from international agencies for a three-day site visit focused on diversion initiatives, jail interventions, and sentencing alternatives in Cook and Lake counties. Left to right: Antonio Lomba, Organization of American States; Chritharth Palli, India judiciary; Melody M. Heaps, MMH & Associates; Pam Rodriguez, TASC; Charlotte Sisson, U.S. State Dept.; Richard Baum, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

TASC Joins Partners in West Side Heroin Task Force to Address Chicago’s Opiate Epidemic

(Chicago) – TASC Vice President of Community and Government Affairs George Williams joined other members of the new West Side Heroin Task Force assembled on International Overdose Awareness Day to announce findings of a study on the impact of heroin in Chicago’s west side neighborhoods.

The Roosevelt University study, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Heroin’s Impact on Chicago’s West Side,” found that while media coverage of the current epidemic has focused on “the new face of heroin”—white, suburban or rural users—the west side for many years has been ground zero of the crisis and its consequences.

“To continue to ignore the west side of Chicago is like a firefighter putting out a fire in part of the house and leaving the house burning,” said State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-8) at the August 31 press conference. The task force, led by Ford and comprised of dozens of partners and organizations, including TASC, will support and intensify existing efforts in the fight against heroin.

Long considered to be a place where people with heroin addictions travel from the suburbs and other parts of Chicago to get their drugs and leave, “the city’s west side actually is a hotbed for heroin hospitalizations, arrests and deaths,” Roosevelt University’s news announced.

State Rep. Camille Y. Lilly, (D-78), vice president of external affairs at Loretto Hospital, highlighted broader community issues related to the heroin crisis. “The overdosing is the outcome of other factors and issues that are going on in our society. People are using drugs to deal with life, lack of jobs, lack of money, lack of housing, lack of healthcare,” she said. “Policy is what’s going to make the difference, and how we fund the policies that are enhancing the lives of individuals.”

Task force member Kathie Kane-Willis, director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University, authored the study, which found that opioid-related hospital admissions of Chicagoans on the west side constitute almost one in four such hospitalizations across Illinois. Additionally, heroin possession arrest rates in these neighborhoods continue to exceed those in other parts of the city, even increasing during times of overall citywide decline.

Further, the study indicated that the Chicago metro area experienced the second greatest decline in publicly funded drug treatment admissions among all state metro areas, falling by 61 percent over the past 5 years.

The study found that recent heroin overdose rates were higher in Chicago than in suburban Cook, Will, Lake, McHenry, DuPage, and Kane counties, and the overdose mortality rate across the state was significantly higher for African Americans (8.94 per 100,000 population) than for whites (5.86).

The report includes recommendations to increase community-based treatment, reclassify drug possession related to small amounts as a misdemeanor offense, and provide medication-assisted treatment to individuals incarcerated in Cook County jail, among others.

Joining fellow task force members to release the report, Williams noted hat the world is moving to a platform of public health, and not a criminal justice response to heroin addiction.

“Everyone deserves the right to their life and to live,” said Williams. “That’s why we need the necessary services that our state reps, particularly Representative Lilly and Representative Ford have fought for… to continue to make sure that the west side does not continue to be the epicenter, but the west side becomes the model of how the community has gathered together and interrupted men and women and families and communities losing their lives when it’s not necessary.”

Ford advocated that resources, services, and cutting-edge programs be directed to residents, and also encouraged funding for House Bill 1, a comprehensive measure to fight heroin.

In addition to Ford, Willis, and Williams, speakers at the press conference included Dr. Sonia Mehta, CEO of Loretto Hospital; Jacqui Colyer, regional administrator of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services; Dr. Dan Lustig, vice president of clinical services at Haymarket Center; Jamelia Hand, overdose prevention advocate; Marianne Schiavone, chairperson of West Suburban Hospital; Doris Davenport, president of the Center of Community Connections; and Chelsea Laliberte, executive director of Live4Lali.

George A. H. Williams, TASC vice president of community and government affairs.

George A. H. Williams, TASC vice president of community and government affairs, speaking at the August 31, 2016 press conference.

Addiction Today Radio Interviews TASC’s Peter Palanca about Family Role in Addiction Recovery

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Peter Palanca, TASC Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer

(Chicago) – What do family members need to know about addiction treatment and recovery?

TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca was the featured guest on the August 20 Addiction Today radio program, where he offered information for families of individuals in early recovery.

Hosted by veteran broadcaster Russ Morley, the 30-minute show delved into the hopes, expectations, and experiences of family members after a loved one completes treatment.

“When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, family members often breathe a sigh of relief when their loved one gets into treatment,” said Morley. “Sometimes it’s an outpatient program, and sometimes an inpatient residential situation. But going into treatment is only the beginning of the path to recovery. What happens after treatment?”

Families sometimes assume that once a person is in treatment, the problem is fixed, and everyone can get on with their lives.

“As a matter of fact, they just wait until that treatment episode is finished so that they can have their son or their daughter, or their spouse or their partner back,” said Palanca. “The fact is, that’s just not how it works, and it’s important to recognize that.”

There still will be challenges and questions for the family, he said.

“One of the things that recovery certainly can do is it can help to restore hope, and it can help to restore trust, and it can help to restore confidence in relationships within the family,” he said.

“However, that doesn’t happen overnight… That’s why it’s referred to as recovery, not recovered.

There is a difference between treatment and recovery, Palanca added.

Similar to other chronic conditions, treatment begins to address the presenting symptoms of the illness. As with most health issues, Palanca explained, there are different types of treatment, such as individual therapy, group counseling, the use of medications, and some combination of these. There are also different modalities, including residential treatment, hospital-based inpatient treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, outpatient, and programs with a strong 12-step orientation.

Extending from that, recovery is a lifelong process of managing one’s health and quality of life without addictive substances.

“What recovery looks like,” he said, “is living a life, on a day-to-day basis, with improving health, improving wellness, improving quality of life that includes relationships, especially with family, but also work-related relationships, or school-related relationships… Treatment begins to teach people how to do that.”

Referencing the 3 Cs often heard at Al-Anon meetings and in other family support settings, Palanca noted that it’s important for family members to understand that “they didn’t cause their loved one’s addiction, they can’t control their loved one’s addiction, and they certainly can’t cure their love one’s addiction.”

The same is true for recovery; family members cannot control loved one’s recovery process.

Morley and Palanca discussed the fact that even as recovery begins, the original issues linger within the family. Addiction has components of shame and guilt, and “if only” scenarios that don’t help the addicted person in recovery or the family members. Managing expectations is important for family members, they agreed.

Listen to the 30-minute program here.

Addiction Today is presented by the Hanley Center at Origins.

Palanca is a prominent voice for prevention, treatment, and recovery. Based at TASC’s administrative offices in Chicago, he has worked for nearly 40 years in the field, from leading prevention initiatives to heading treatment organizations to directing TASC’s service delivery for more than 25,000 people in Illinois each year.

To learn more about TASC, please visit www.tasc.org.

 

 

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.