Sheriff Tom Dart, Bill O’Donnell Receive TASC Leadership Awards; Access to Healthcare and Recovery Highlighted at Annual Event

(Chicago) – TASC held its 2015 Leadership Awards Luncheon on December 10, honoring Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and entrepreneur Bill O’Donnell for their advocacy on behalf of people with mental health and substance use disorders.

“Sheriff Dart has called national attention to the injustice of using county jails to house people with mental health conditions,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez in presenting TASC’s Justice Leadership Award. “He has supported Medicaid enrollment and other activities to ensure continuity of care for people detained at the Cook County Jail.”

To the applause of more than 300 guests at the Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Dart reported that 12,000 people have successfully signed up for insurance at the jail via the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “People who never had insurance now have insurance,” he said. “It is absolutely amazing what this collective work has done.”

Since 2013, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, working with TASC and the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, has enabled individuals detained at the jail to apply for health insurance. Prior to the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, the vast majority of people entering U.S. jails lacked insurance, hindering their access to treatment for chronic substance use and mental health conditions that often contribute to rearrest.

The prevalence of these conditions in the justice system is not new, Dart observed. “These are issues that have been around for a while. And it’s with partnerships, working with TASC, that we’ve been able to make incredible change.”

TASC Public Voice Award Recipient Bill O’Donnell noted that he might well have gone to jail for his behavior while he was in the throes of addiction. Coming from a family driven to “achieve, achieve, achieve,” O’Donnell was a successful businessman who became addicted to alcohol and cocaine in the 1970s.

“It wasn’t until I got into treatment the second or third time… that I ever asked myself the question, ‘Why is it that I even need the marijuana, the booze, the coke, to change the way I felt?’” O’Donnell recalled. “Recovery and life and awareness is an inside job. You get can get help, you can get direction, you can get love, you can get guidance—but it’s an inside job.”

O’Donnell went on to found Sierra Tucson in 1983, an internationally-recognized treatment center that was among the first to involve family members in the recovery process.

TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca praised O’Donnell for his openness and high-profile voice for recovery. “Twenty-three million are in long-term recovery in this country and it’s still the most stigmatized illness,” said Palanca. “Bill was one of the first corporate leaders to speak openly about his addiction. He is a powerful voice for recovery.”

The value of helping one another was highlighted in two videos accompanying speakers’ remarks. Dart introduced a video depicting personal stories of people who now have health insurance thanks to enrollment efforts at the jail, and Rodriguez presented a video featuring participants in Winners’ Circles, which are peer-led recovery support groups for people who have been involved in the justice system.

TASC has been engaged in initiatives at the intersection of health and social justice since 1976, explained TASC Board Chair Cecil Curtwright. “I believe that our highest human calling is to help others—directly, if possible, and if not possible, to support those who do, with whatever means and talents available to us,” said Curtwright, who is the associate vice provost for academic and enrollment services at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Among other dignitaries attending TASC’s event were previous honorees, including Gino DiVito, retired appellate court justice; Melody Heaps, TASC founder and president emeritus; and Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

Chairing TASC’s 2015 event committee was John Zielinski, vice president and financial advisor at William Blair, who, along with other volunteers and generous donors, guided TASC’s most successful fundraising campaign to date. Zielinski extended special thanks to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, the presenting sponsor of the event, along with numerous other generous sponsors and raffle prize donors.

“TASC is successful because we work together,” said Rodriguez. “Thanks to science and treatment parity, thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the efforts of TASC and our community partners, and especially thanks to all of you, more and more men and women are finding the treatment, the support, and the hope and tenacity needed to build and strengthen those delicate roots into lifetimes of recovery.”

TASC 2015 Leadership Awards Luncheon. Left to right: TASC Board Chair Cecil Curtwright, Justice Leadership Award Honoree Tom Dart, Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree Bill O'Donnell, TASC President Pam Rodriguez. Photo by Uk Studio.

TASC 2015 Leadership Awards Luncheon in Chicago. Left to right: TASC Board Chair Cecil Curtwright, Justice Leadership Honoree Tom Dart, Public Voice Leadership Honoree Bill O’Donnell, TASC President Pam Rodriguez.

Supporters filled the Westin Michigan Avenue ballroom for TASC's 2015 Leadership Awards Luncheon. Photo by Uk Studio.

Supporters filled the Westin Michigan Avenue ballroom for TASC’s 2015 Leadership Awards Luncheon. Photos by Uk Studio.

Parental Addiction Treatment Improves Child Welfare Outcomes: TASC President Pam Rodriguez at Capitol Hill Briefing

(Chicago) – TASC President Pam Rodriguez shared highlights of Illinois’ successful Recovery Coach program at a December 3 Capitol Hill briefing focused on issues and solutions in child welfare reform.

In partnership with the offices of U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Children and Family Futures hosted the briefing, entitled The Elephant in the Room: Access to Substance Abuse Treatment—A Cornerstone of Child Welfare Reform. With an audience encompassing Congressional staff, policymakers, and child welfare advocates, the briefing highlighted the role of substance use disorders in the child welfare system and what works to better serve affected children and their families.

Rodriguez presented lessons and outomes from Illinois’ Recovery Coach program, which addresses substance use disorders among parents whose children have been removed from custody due to substance-related maltreatment. The program began in 2000, funded through a Title IV-E waiver granted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). TASC has provided services for the Recovery Coach program since its inception in Cook County in 2000, as well as in Madison and St. Clair counties since the program expanded in 2007.

Links between childhood maltreatment and delinquency. There is growing understanding of the connection between child maltreatment and later delinquency, and the crossover of children who are involved in both child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Young people involved in these systems face a host of complex challenges, which may include trauma, educational difficulties, mental health conditions, sexual abuse, and the instability of group homes or foster care placement.

TASC works with DCFS to help stabilize children in care and reduce young people’s likelihood of becoming involved in the justice system.

Intensive outreach and case management. Through the Recovery Coach program, TASC works with the parent, child welfare caseworker, and alcohol/drug treatment agency to remove barriers to treatment, engage the parent in treatment, provide outreach to re-engage the parent if necessary, and provide ongoing support to the parent and family through the duration of the child welfare case.

As Rodriguez explained in the briefing, the program draws on research pointing to the complex needs of parents involved in child welfare and justice systems. For example, a 2014 needs assessment report by the Center for Children and Family Futures for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention synthesized hundreds of Family Drug Court surveys, stakeholder interviews, and more than 2,500 technical assistance requests from all 50 states.

Among Family Drug Courts, services for parents were consistently identified as priorities. Systems must recognize and respond to complex and multiple needs arising from trauma, dual-diagnosis, and domestic violence; responses include engagement and retention strategies, recovery supports, and serving parents in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The report also found that sustainability of funding and cross-system knowledge emerge as consistently-cited needs among jurisdictions and stakeholders.

Rodriguez noted that the Recovery Coach program’s success comes from not only the direct services to parents, but also the understanding of and attention to the cross-systems issues that influence outcomes. Further, the program provides a response to the opiate crisis that is affecting child welfare systems.

“With the rise in heroin use across the country, even more children are being removed from their homes and placed in foster care,” said Rodriguez. “By working with systems to address complex issues around addiction, programs like Recovery Coach and Family Drug Courts make it possible to safely return many affected children.”

Effectiveness and cost savings. A 2012 in-depth program evaluation by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed that parents with a TASC recovery coach were more likely to access treatment, and children whose parents had recovery coaches were more likely to be safely reunified with their parents.

Furthermore, children whose parents had recovery coaches were significantly less likely to be associated with a subsequent juvenile arrest.

In addition, according to the March 2015 semi-annual progress report released by DCFS, the Recovery Coach program has generated more than $10 million in savings for the State of Illinois since the program began in 2000. These savings come from significantly higher rates of family reunification, resulting in fewer youth in the system, as well as quicker reunification, resulting in fewer days spent in foster care.

TASC is a statewide, independent case management and care coordination agency in Illinois, annually serving 27,000 individuals referred by criminal justice, juvenile justice, and child welfare systems.

2015 TASC Leadership Awards Luncheon to Honor Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, Entrepreneur Bill O’Donnell

(Chicago) – With a commitment to reducing incarceration and increasing opportunities for recovery, TASC will honor two leading voices in these movements at the agency’s 2015 Leadership Awards Luncheon on December 10.

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart will receive TASC’s 2015 Justice Leadership Award and entrepreneur and recovery advocate William T. O’Donnell, Jr. will receive the agency’s 2015 Public Voice Leadership Award.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois will serve as the presenting sponsor of this year’s event, which supports TASC’s services across Illinois.

Dart is a national leader in calling for an end to the over-incarceration of people with mental health and substance use problems, advocating instead for available treatment and supports in the community.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, TASC's 2015 Justice Leadership Award Honoree

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, TASC’s 2015 Justice Leadership Award Honoree.

Elected sheriff in 2006, Dart is responsible for the nation’s largest single site jail, which daily detains thousands of individuals who have mental health and substance use disorders. Until a few years ago, nine out of 10 jail detainees lacked healthcare coverage, thereby significantly hindering their access to community-based treatment. When Medicaid eligibility was expanded in 2013 to cover previously uninsured adults, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with TASC and the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, created processes for all individuals coming through the jail to apply for coverage. Since 2013, more than 25,000 people who have come through the Cook County Jail have applied for healthcare coverage, increasing their opportunities to access community-based care before they reach the justice system.

Dart continues to promote collaborative, community-based partnerships and linkages to care for people with complex health issues. Most recently, the sheriff’s office, along with TASC and Heartland Alliance, received a $1M grant from the University of Chicago Urban Labs to develop a Supportive Release Center for people with mental health issues who are exiting the jail.

“Sheriff Dart understands that the criminal justice system was never designed to be a health care provider,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “We support and applaud his commitment to creating more sensible, effective, and dignified societal responses to behavioral health problems.”

Entrepreneur Bill O'Donnell, TASC's 2015 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree

Entrepreneur Bill O’Donnell, TASC’s 2015 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree.

Creating pathways to recovery has been the longtime mission of Bill O’Donnell, who will receive TASC’s Public Voice Leadership Award. A native of Chicago, O’Donnell resides in Wilmette and is managing director of ODE, LLC, an investment and development firm. He began his career with Bally Manufacturing and quickly ascended the corporate ladder, but addiction took its toll. O’Donnell’s subsequent personal journey and rejuvenation in recovery, combined with his business development expertise, led him to found Sierra Tucson in 1983, which he built into a world renowned addiction treatment center and dually licensed psychiatric hospital.

In 1995, O’Donnell also founded Miraval Resort, which has consistently received the highest ratings by industry publications. Along with a being a prominent business leader, he remains a voice for others who struggle with addiction, and also an advocate for family involvement in the treatment and recovery process.

“We are thrilled to be able to recognize Bill as a renowned leader in the treatment field,” said TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca. “From the outset of his work in the field, he understood that addiction is far beyond an individual struggle; it’s a family disease too. By creating clinical programs that include family members in the process, he not only has helped countless people achieve and maintain recovery, but he has helped families become stronger and healthier as well.”

TASC’s 2015 Leadership Awards Luncheon will take place at the Westin Michigan Avenue Chicago on Thursday, December 10 from 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM. Registration is requested by November 19. For sponsorship opportunities and additional information, please click here.

2015 Urban Labs Innovation Challenge Winners: TASC, Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Heartland Alliance Earn Grant for Supportive Release Center

(Chicago) – The University of Chicago announced the winners of the Urban Labs 2015 Innovation Challenge grants on October 12, including a $1M grant to TASC, the Heartland Alliance, and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to support people with mental illness as they are released from the Cook County Jail.

Timothy Knowles, the Pritzker Director of Urban Labs, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the announcement during a Chicago Ideas Week event, which included a panel discussion with WomenOnCall.org founder and President Margot Pritzker, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and host Cheryl Corley of NPR.

The 2015 Urban Labs Innovation Challenge focused on the areas of health, poverty, and energy and the environment. Advisory committees comprising civic leaders, practitioners, funders, and academic experts selected the grant winners from a pool of more than 100 applicants.

The grant will enable the launch of a Supportive Release Center to help individuals with mental illness transition to services in their communities following their release from the Cook County Jail. It also will include rigorous evaluation—conducted by the Health Lab—to empirically examine outcomes and better inform practitioners and policymakers about its effectiveness, cost-efficiency, and potential scalability in the long run.

“We are honored to partner with the University of Chicago Urban Labs, Heartland Alliance, and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to develop solutions to the issues faced by people with mental illness who are leaving the jail,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “This will help us create a safe, supportive environment to facilitate access to care. The project also will be closely evaluated, using a random controlled research design, so that it has the potential to become an evidence-based practice that could be replicated nationwide.”

The Urban Labs’ collaborative approach recognizes that many long-term challenges in cities are related, and require unified responses. Public-private partnerships are central to the approach of the project, and in fact Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois already has made a $50,000 commitment toward the Supportive Release Center.

The Cook County Jail admits approximately 100,000 men and women annually. Among the average daily population of 9,000, 20 to 30 percent are estimated to have a mental illness.

The project builds upon other collaborative strategies to improve access to health care for people leaving the jail. These aligned and reinforcing efforts include the Justice and Health Initiative funded by The Chicago Community Trust, the Justice Advisory Council, and the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, as well as the planning and pilot project funded by the Michael Reese Health Trust, and the service network innovation collaborative funded by the Polk Bros. Foundation.

For additional coverage of the announcement, see articles in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Inno, DNAChicago, UChicagoNews, and social media posts at #InnovationChallenge.

Revision of Automatic Transfer Law Achieves Common Cause for Illinois Juvenile Justice Reform

OP-ED: During the 2015 spring legislative session, bi-partisan cooperation and compromise led to agreed upon changes to the Illinois criminal code, creating a fairer and more effective justice system for youth.

Accomplishments include a new reform, House Bill 3718, sponsored by State Representative Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), which addresses one of the most critical issues in juvenile court—the treatment of children as adults in court.

In early August, Governor Bruce Rauner signed this bill into law, eliminating the automatic transfer of juvenile cases based solely on charges brought against them, and expanding judicial discretion to try juvenile cases in juvenile courts.

The new mandate, an initiative of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, expands the requirement of review by a juvenile court judge to examine relevant factors before transferring some cases to adult court. Specifically, the law, which takes effect on January 1, 2016, requires a juvenile court hearing in all cases involving children 15 and younger and in cases of older youth charged with particular crimes.

Currently, a prosecutor can automatically transfer a child to adult court—with no appearance before a juvenile court judge required—simply based on the charge lodged against them. As of January 1, for all children under 16, an individual review of the circumstances of the case as well as consideration of the rehabilitative services available in the juvenile court system will be required.

The automatic court transfer law has disproportionately affected children of color.

According to a report released by the Juvenile Justice Initiative, between 2010 and 2014, 580 children were transferred to adult court in Cook County, and of those, only 4 were white. In addition, 6-16 percent of the children transferred were later re-charged with a lesser offense that would have triggered no automatic transfer, but they remained in adult court. An earlier version of the report indicated that of the 257 children transferred between 2010 and 2012, more half of those convicted were either recharged before trial or plea or eventually found guilty of lesser offenses.

Moreover, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey of research included a study finding that children tried in adult court had 34 percent more re-arrests than their counterparts tried in juvenile court, and other studies supported this finding. Further, the report indicated that strengthened transfer laws are “counterproductive to reducing juvenile violence and enhancing public safety.”

The reforms authorized by the legislature and approved by the Governor are in much better alignment with these findings.

By reducing the scope of the automatic transfer law, a legal relic of the 1980s, the Governor and lawmakers have endorsed the merit of judicial review and discretion on child transfer to adult court while preserving the authority to transfer a child and, in some instances, will still allow automatic transfer.

Next year, juvenile judges will individually consider transfer decisions for children ages 15-17 who are charged with armed robbery, aggravated vehicular hijacking, and unlawful use of a weapon on school grounds. Children age 15 and younger charged with any crime will be entitled to judicial review. Youth ages 16-17 charged with serious offenses like murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and aggravated battery with a firearm will still be automatically transferred to adult court.

The new law seeks to restore some sense of legal decency and justice in the Illinois juvenile justice system that has been for far too long operating on automatic pilot when it came to decisions that bore on the future of an entire generation of principally African-American children.

By taking this critical step, the Governor and the legislature have jointly determined that in the Illinois juvenile justice system, the priority must be fairness.

Pam Rodriguez, president and CEO of TASC, is a member of the Governor’s Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform.

Chicago, Rockford, and GSU Events Shine Spotlight on Recovery

(Chicago)— In unison with several hundred recovery advocates in Chicago, Rockford, and University Park, TASC celebrated Recovery Month with rallies, walks, and outdoor celebrations.

Observed each year in September, Recovery Month recognizes that millions of people across the country can and do recover from substance use and mental health disorders. Sponsored nationally by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the 2015 observance featured more than 1,000 local events across the country.

In Illinois, through the annual Recovery Walk at Governors State University (GSU), Outside the Walls celebration in Chicago, and Rally for Recovery in Rockford, TASC clients, staff, friends, and colleagues shared community resources and elevated hopes and triumphs of recovery.

“Every single one of us has been affected by substance use disorders, whether through personal experience or through knowing a friend, a family member, a colleague, or a neighbor,” said TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca, who emceed the September 12 event at GSU. “Through our work together, we can help more people know and experience the reality that recovery is possible.”

The Outside the Walls event also was an inspiring success, with inclement weather the day before giving way to a bright celebration on September 19. “What a day!” remarked Rev. Tommie Johnson, TASC recovery support services coordinator, who leads the annual event. “There was a great turnout, a large crowd, and absolutely top-shelf entertainment… So many clients and their children remarked how they were moved, not only emotionally, but motivated to action!”

Rockford’s Recovery Rally on the Rock on September 26 drew impressive attendance as well, along with coverage from the Rockford Register-Star, WIFR, and WREX.

“The event keeps growing every year,” said TASC case manager Kate Craig, who co-organized the event in Rockford. “It’s grown from 35 people when it first started in 2009, to the huge support system that it is today.”

The 2015 theme for Recovery Month, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Visible, Vocal, Valuable!” was selected to highlight the value of educating, mentoring, and helping others in the recovery journey.

“For those who have experienced substance use disorders, we know that there are many paths of support that can make a life-saving difference—for people’s health, for their homes, for their families and communities,” said Palanca. “We thank all our event sponsors and supporters for partnership in this work. Together, we can realize the promise of recovery.” 

Members of TASC team at GSU Recovery Walk: (left to right) Ryan Dillon, Debra Hammer, Lindsey Baumgartner, Cassy Lamon, Charles Sanders, and Latina McMillan.

Members of TASC team at the September 12 Recovery Walk at Governors State University: (left to right) Ryan Dillon, Debra Hammer, Lindsey Baumgartner, Cassy Lamon, Charles Sanders, and Latina McMillan.

The September 19 Outside the Walls event in Chicago was a celebration of youth, hope, and life.

The September 19 Outside the Walls event in Chicago was a celebration of youth, hope, and life.

Friends and families enjoyed food and music at the 7th Annual Recovery Rally on the Rock in Rockford on September 26.

Friends and families enjoyed food and music at the 7th Annual Recovery Rally on the Rock in Rockford on September 26.

TASC provides informational resources at Recovery Month events each year.

TASC offers resources and information to help individuals and families seeking recovery.

 

 

 

Faith Leaders to Gather in Chicago Heights for Training on Addiction and Recovery

(Chicago Heights) – Clergy and other faith leaders who have seen the impact of substance use in families and communities will have the opportunity to learn about pathways to recovery at a special one-day training event in Chicago Heights on October 1.

Understanding Addiction and Supporting Recovery is a national training delivered by the National Association of Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) Clergy Education and Training Project™.

The event will be hosted and supported by the City of Chicago Heights and South Suburban Family Wellness Alliance (SSFWA), with additional support from Franciscan St. James Health.

“This will be an energizing and unique summit for clergy and other faith leaders,” said TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca, who serves as a member of the SSFWA and has been a leader in bringing the national training to Illinois. “It has received high praise from past participants, and we are excited that it will be held in Chicago Heights on Thursday.”

Presenters will include Sis Wenger, president and CEO of NACoA; Al Orsello, president and CEO of The Prevention Partnership; and the Rev. Tommie Johnson, recovery support services coordinator for TASC.

Open to all faith leaders in the south suburbs and surrounding areas, the training and curriculum materials are offered to faith leaders free of charge, thanks to a Drug-Free Communities grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). There is a nominal $15 cost to cover lunch.

The training is offered to help leaders in the faith community un­derstand more clearly the family and spiritual problems related to addiction and to provide tools and strategies to assist families. Participants will learn and share knowledge about effective prevention, intervention, and recovery tools, and promote successful, collaborative interfaith community partnerships.

The event will take place at the Chicago Heights Professional Office Building, 30 E. 15th Street, on October 1 from 8:30 AM–3 PM. Advance registration is required. To register, please call TASC Administrator and SSFWA Project Director Alisa Montgomery-Webb at 312-203-9674.