TASC Executive Vice President Chairing National Addiction Leadership Conference

(Chicago) – TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca will chair the 2017 National Addiction Leadership Conference, which will take place May 21-23 in Austin, Texas.

Hosted by the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), this annual event is the premier conference for professionals in the addiction treatment field, featuring leadership roundtables, workshops, and networking events focused on the exchange ideas, research, public policy, clinical advancements, and best practices in addiction treatment.

In addition to serving as conference chair, Palanca also will moderate a panel discussion on bridging the public system/private system treatment divide.

Maureen McDonnell, TASC’s national director for healthcare initiatives, will join the panel to discuss the role of Medicaid in improving treatment access for people with substance use disorders.

The theme of this year’s conference is Developing a Unified Treatment Provider Platform.

“With overdoses killing 144 of our fellow citizens each day, our call is urgent. We have the opportunity to face new challenges as a united front,” said Palanca. “Our 2017 conference is built around the theme of unity, because patients and families need to be able to walk into a system that is interconnected and focused on their success.”

Palanca is executive vice president and chief operating officer of TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities), which advocates for alternatives to incarceration and community reentry services for people with substance use and mental health disorders, and serves more than 18,000 individuals and families in Illinois each year. A national expert in addiction treatment services, Palanca is a board member of NAATP, co-chair of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA), and past chair and current board member of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health (IABH).

Click to learn more about the NAATP conference and to register.

TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca, 2017 National Addiction Leadership Conference Chair

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February 12-18 is Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week

(Chicago) – The National Association of Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) has announced that February 12-18 is Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week 2017.

“At a time that our country is finally facing the science that has shown repeatedly that addiction is a treatable brain disorder and is moving to address it effectively in our medical systems and criminal justice systems, it is still failing to protect and promote the rights of the millions of children whose home life daily is overwhelmed by the misuse of alcohol and drugs,” said NACoA President and CEO Sis Wenger. “The people who should be nurturing and protecting them are, instead, consumed by an insidious disease that erodes family life and leaves their children to suffer in stifling silence, feeling alone and desperate. It is time, finally, for America to do the right thing for these most at-risk children.”

With age-appropriate help, children of addicted parents can find ways to resolve the stress in their lives, including exercises like mindfulness, through which they can learn strategies to reduce stress levels and begin to heal, reports NACoA.

“Just as children are affected by parents’ addiction, they also can be deeply affected by the recovery process,” said TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca, who serves as vice chair of NACoA’s board of directors. “Everyone in a family affected by addiction needs healing. Like their parents in recovery, children may also need to learn new ways of coping, solving problems, and being happy.”

NACoA is the oldest national membership and affiliate non-profit organization committed to eliminating the adverse impact of alcohol and drug use on children and families.

TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) serves adults and adolescents who have substance use or mental health conditions and who are involved in justice or child welfare systems.

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342,000 Low-Income Illinois Citizens to Have Access to Medical Care, Treatment for Substance Use and Mental Health Conditions, Beginning January 1

(Chicago) – In 90 days, 342,000 low-income Illinois citizens will have access to health care, including many of those involved in the Illinois criminal justice system who require treatment for mental health, substance use, and medical conditions.

On July 22, Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation, Senate Bill 26, that authorized Illinois’ participation in the new national health reform law called the Affordable Care Act.

As one of the outcomes of this legislation, starting on January 1, 2014, adults aged 19 through 64 with incomes below 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (about $15,400 per year for an individual and $20,000 per year for a couple) will gain access to Illinois Medicaid coverage.

What this means is that uninsured, low-income adults—describing the majority of individuals in Illinois jails and prisons—will have greater access to treatment for substance use and mental health conditions that often contribute to their criminal behavior. Eighty-six percent of male arrestees in Cook County, for example, test positive for illicit drugs. Nationally, about a quarter of people in jail convicted of property and drug offenses had committed their crimes to get money for drugs.

In addition to improving treatment access for low-income populations, the new law also answers a resounding public call: A Cook County referendum on state funding for substance abuse treatment passed overwhelmingly in 2004, with more than one million voters saying the state should pay for drug and alcohol treatment for any Illinois resident who demands it.

A long time coming, the new health care law begins to answer this public demand by providing the means to fund treatment programs.

Under the legislation, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs of the new Illinois Medicaid enrollees from 2014 through 2016. Starting in 2017, the match rate gradually will be reduced: 95 percent in 2017; 94 percent in 2018; 93 percent in 2019; and 90 percent in 2020.

The share paid by the federal government for care in Illinois will never dip below a 90 percent.

Even if the federal government were to change the law’s financing terms, Illinois’ share would never be more than 10 cents on each dollar spent on new Medicaid recipients. The legislation signed by Quinn includes language that would discontinue coverage if the federal government’s share of Medicaid matching funds drops below 90 percent.

Illinois currently receives a 50 percent match from the federal government for health programs under terms of the existing Medicaid program.

For individuals involved in the Illinois criminal justice system, the Illinois Medicaid expansion is critical, because they will be able to access adequate medical care and, equally if not more importantly, behavioral health care such as substance use treatment and mental health care, many for the first time, according to TASC President Pamela Rodriguez.

“TASC strongly supported this legislation because rates of addiction and mental health disorders are disproportionately high in the criminal justice population. Access to care for these conditions can help break costly cycles of crime and recidivism,” said Rodriguez. “Additionally, the new health law will help save counties and the state of Illinois enormous sums of money on justice and uncompensated health care costs.”

Rodriguez pointed out that the national and Illinois record on Medicaid access has been solid, noting that “Illinois has received bonus payments totaling over $50 million over the past four years for meeting enrollment targets and having program simplifications in place for our Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

Additionally, Medicaid cost controls outperform both Medicare and private health insurance. Nationally, the per enrollee cost growth in Medicaid is 6.1 percent, which is lower than the per enrollee cost growth in comparable coverage under Medicare (6.9 percent), private health insurance (10.6 percent), and monthly premiums for employer-sponsored coverage (12.6 percent).

To help criminal justice organizations and agencies establish enrollment processes, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has launched an online toolkit entitled, “Getting Ready for the Health Insurance Marketplace.” This narrated presentation describes the health care law, explains how the Health Insurance Marketplace works, and provides communication ideas and materials from the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) for use in increasing awareness and helping uninsured individuals apply for coverage.

Twitter @TASC_CHJ

Christopher Kennedy Lawford: Addiction Doesn’t Discriminate; Opportunities for Treatment, Recovery Shouldn’t Either

(Chicago, IL) — “I was born in a family where addiction doesn’t just run – it gallops. We had fame, we had power, we had wealth. What we didn’t understand is that addiction ignores all that.”

This was the life of Christopher Kennedy Lawford, who shared his story of addiction recovery with more than 300 guests at TASC’s 2012 Leadership Awards Luncheon on December 12.

Lawford was in Chicago to accept TASC’s Public Voice Leadership Award, presented annually to an organization or person who has advanced the dialogue around addiction recovery and related public health issues. TASC also presented the agency’s signature Justice Leadership Award to Cook County Presiding Judge Paul P. Biebel, Jr. (Please see article highlighting Judge Biebel’s remarks.)

“As far-reaching and devastating as addiction and mental illness are, recovery is much more powerful,” said TASC Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Palanca in introducing Lawford. “Our 2012 Public Voice Award recipient is an individual who is well acquainted with the journey of recovery.”

Son of actor Peter Lawford and Patricia Kennedy Lawford, and nephew of John F. Kennedy, Christopher Kennedy Lawford’s struggles with addiction are detailed in his bestselling book, Symptoms of Withdrawal. With more than 26 years in recovery now, Lawford is engaged in worldwide efforts to erode the stigma surrounding addiction, expand access to evidence-based treatment services, and promote the societal benefits of recovery. His latest work, Recover to Live: Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction, has just been released.

In a luncheon ballroom filled with judges, service providers, community partners, individual and corporate donors, and TASC staff, Lawford’s remarks drew a standing ovation. Here is part of what he said:

It is an honor to be here and to be given this award by TASC, whom I’ve known about for a long, long time… I hear about them from my friends at the White House and the UN and everywhere. To be in this room and receiving an award from you is really meaningful.

From the moment I found drugs and alcohol, the only thing that mattered to me for the next 17 years was where I was going to get my next drink or my next drug. The world was suddenly not so scary. Better living through better chemistry became my credo. I didn’t feel like there was anything I couldn’t accomplish if my medicine cabinet – or yours – was fully stocked. Of course, it was an illusion.

Drug addiction took me to three jails and three intensive care units; landed me in newspapers and on the evening news; damaged and permanently scarred my liver, heart and lungs; significantly reduced the opportunities that I was lucky to be born with; drove away most of the worthwhile people in my life, leaving behind a posse of lower companions of drug dealers, pharmacists, and bartenders; and killed my best friend and my father. This is the road for many confronting the disease of drug addiction. I should have died many times but I didn’t. With desire and access to treatment, I lived and found my way into recovery.

Today, I speak out so people know that addiction is an equal opportunity disease, that recovery from addiction is possible, that recovery is not just about staying away from a drink, drug, or behavior a day at a time, but also about restoring and enhancing the lives of those afflicted as well as the lives of those around them. And I speak out to urge others to do the same, because the awareness that recovery is possible, along with the spreading knowledge that science has proven—that addiction is a brain illness—will help to dispel many of the myths, and much of the stigma surrounding diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

If you remember only three things from what I say today, it should be the following:

The first is that in order to make a difference in the lives of those suffering with drug dependency, we need to address the structural and moral obstacles that stigmatize and discriminate against those who need our assistance.

Second is that we know drug treatment works. There is an undeniable body of research, evidence, and practice that can make a difference, if allowed. Drug treatment services should be available to all, just as we treat other chronic illnesses.

Third, it is imperative that we stay focused on and address the underlying societal causes and conditions that lock people in the hopelessness and despair of the addictive cycle, keeping their recovery illusory and unattainable.

The challenge before us lies in creating long-term, sustainable change to provide a means of helping those who need it most.

I applaud those of you on the front lines of TASC and other agencies, battling to bring services to those in need. Drug dependence is destroying the very fabric of society, present and future. So why, given the tremendous need and availability of proven treatment protocols, do we continue to struggle with having treatment investments commensurate to their importance? We need to fundamentally see the issue of addiction through a different set of lenses. We need to see it devoid of stigma and discrimination. We need to see it as a health issue, and not just a criminal justice issue… We need to reject the dichotomy of treatment versus enforcement, since we know that done right, the criminal justice and health systems can work together harmoniously. We’ve seen that here today with the work of Judge Biebel and TASC.

Punishment and prison rarely work as an effective response to someone with a drug addiction, and can have lasting impacts on the family. We know that drug problems don’t discriminate and can happen to anyone and any family. Drug users are often among society’s most scorned and shunned. Many in our world believe those struggling with addiction have no willpower or are morally noncommittal, are a drain on our society. I’ll tell you what. You show me someone who has battled a drug dependency for five, ten, fifteen, twenty years, and lived to tell their story, and I’ll show you one tough, willful, committed human being whose recovery can be a benefit to society.

The journey to recovery is not linear or predictable, and it isn’t easy, but it is possible, and millions have and will recover, but they need our help and our understanding. They need access to programs that are based on evidence, not on ideology. They need to know that they can reach out without fear, ridicule, persecution, or worse – violence. They need to know that they can once again become productive members of society, that society values them and wants them back. We must build awareness that sustained and positive outcomes from treatment and assistance requires the community to accept people back into their community, and understand the importance of meaningful work as a critical part of that acceptance. There are many who have been saved from the ravages of addiction and return to productive and meaningful lives.

My journey to recovery started well before I stopped using drugs. It began when I knew I had a problem and began my struggle to do something about it. I may have appeared lost, but from the moment I understood what my problem was, I was looking for the solution. The fact that it took someone like me—who had all the resources and desire to get better as long as it did—reflects the immense challenge facing anyone with the courage and the will to confront this illness.

In many places in our world, there is little to no access to quality care, and where there is, it often lacks the effective integration within the health care system. As a result, people face considerable gaps in services and barriers to accessing the help they need.

It took me nine years of trying before I found my way to recovery. During that time, I tried everything possible to stop using drugs and alcohol and nothing had worked. And if you had met me back then, you might have thought to yourself, “You know, that Chris Lawford sure is a nice guy, and he’s tried really hard to do something about his problem, but he’s probably going to die.” Indeed, this is often the headline related to addiction – that any effort or investment is squandered… Standing here today before you, 26 years in recovery, I can tell you emphatically that this is not true.

Access to treatment and care doesn’t only make good health sense, it makes good economic sense. Put simply, treatment improves health outcomes and fosters healthier individuals, families, and communities while lowering the social and economic costs of addiction… An individual in recovery contributes to society economically and in many other ways. One of the most profound ways occurs in families… One of the great gifts of recovery is breaking the chain of addiction in a family. A father or mother in recovery will have a profound effect on what kind of life their children will have, on whether or not their dreams will come true.

We simply cannot ignore the complex interplay between biology and life experiences when it comes to this illness. One would not look at my life and necessarily think of the underlying societal stresses that contribute to drug dependence, but they were there.

My uncles John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy were political figures, but they were family members first. Both of them were murdered. And that violence contributed to the onset of my drug dependence as well as others in my family. I was 12 years old when my uncle Bobby was killed running for the presidency of this country. I had no idea at that time that a 12-year-old kid with a genetic predisposition toward this illness, who suffers trauma in their adolescence, is much more susceptible to this disease later in life.

There are millions of children throughout the world who are victimized by societal forces they have no power to control – forces that can have a great impact on whether they become addicts in later life.

Addiction may be an equal opportunity disease, but that does not mean that those who recover have the same equality of opportunity when it comes to the life they come back to in recovery. There are millions of us who are not only ravaged by addiction, but who are also ravaged by the circumstances of their lives… There is much to do. I am committed in my work to develop innovative ways of bringing better circumstances to more people in recovery, to raise awareness, reduce stigma and discrimination, calling for society to treat this illness the same way it treats other chronic diseases, while making that treatment affordable and universal.

I am grateful to TASC for their courage, their leadership, and their vision when it comes to confronting this most complex health issue. Their example challenges and inspires me and I hope many others in the world to do more, and to do better. I have no doubt that if we do, we will impact many lives.

My Uncle Jack Kennedy, President Kennedy, said the true measure of a nation is its success in fulfilling the promise of a better life for each of its members. Let this be our measure too, to strive to fulfill the promise of a better life through access to treatment and care for the millions suffering from drug dependence throughout the world.

Christopher Kennedy Lawford Accepts TASC's 2012 Public Voice Leadership Award.  Left to right: TASC Executive VP Peter Palanca, Christopher Kennedy Lawford, TASC President Pamela Rodriguez, TASC Board Chair Jim Durkan

Christopher Kennedy Lawford Accepts TASC’s 2012 Public Voice Leadership Award. Left to right: TASC Executive VP Peter Palanca, Christopher Kennedy Lawford, TASC President Pamela Rodriguez, TASC Board Chair Jim Durkan

Governor Pat Quinn at Drug Prevention Symposium: “We don’t ever, ever want to leave a person behind”; Chicago Sun-Times Columnist Neil Steinberg Discusses Personal Experience in Recovery

Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundation and Roosevelt University Partner for Drug Prevention; TASC’s Peter Palanca Moderates Panel Discussion; Rev. Tommie Johnson Honored

(Chicago, IL)  — Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Chicago Sun-Times columnists Bill Zwecker and Neil Steinberg, and numerous drug prevention advocates gathered at Roosevelt University on October 11 to discuss stigma and solutions in preventing substance abuse.

Overlooking Grant Park and Lake Michigan on Thursday afternoon, Roosevelt’s Murray Green Library Auditorium was filled with more than 200 parents, students, social workers, and community leaders concerned about substance abuse that is harming youth in rural, suburban, and urban areas alike.

Governor Pat Quinn attended Friday’s symposium and listened to the impassioned voices of family members and prevention specialists. The Governor offered opening remarks and spoke to traditions of democracy, including the necessity of protecting children from drugs. “Everyone’s life is special,” he said. “We don’t ever, ever want to leave a person behind.”

The afternoon symposium and panel discussion, emceed by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker, focused on stories and strategies to save children from addiction.

“Every 15 minutes we lose one of our citizens to drug addiction,” said philanthropist Larry Goodman, who lost his granddaughter, Cebrin, to drug addition. “That’s four per hour, 100 per day.”

Larry Goodman and his late wife Lillian established The Cebrin Goodman Center in Cebrin’s memory to educate teens, parents, and communities about substance abuse and other issues affecting young people today. Cebrin died from a heroin overdose in 2002 shortly after graduating from college.

The Goodman family presented awards to Illinoisans who have performed extraordinary service in prevention. Robert Grupe received the Goodman Award for Excellence in Drug Abuse Prevention, and Marcia Doniger was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.  TASC Recovery Support Services Coordinator Tommie Johnson was one of 10 people recognized as an Outstanding Preventionist of the Year. Through TASC and with his Outside the Walls ministry, Reverend Johnson gives hope and opportunity to people who have been incarcerated.

Keynote speaker Neil Steinberg, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, offered his personal perspectives as a person in recovery from alcoholism. As a journalist and writer, Mr. Steinberg had once viewed addiction and treatment mostly with an analytical eye. Then he was forced to go to treatment for his own alcoholism.

“Sometimes you do the right things for the wrong reasons,” he recalled. “I was a writer, writing a book, doing research.” A few weeks into the treatment program, to which he had submitted partially because it seemed an interesting experience worth recording, he acknowledged that he himself was addicted. “I realized, this really is a problem. I can’t stop drinking.”

Initially for the sake of his marriage, and ultimately for faithfulness to life itself, Mr. Steinberg stuck with the process of treatment and recovery. Describing settings and circumstances where drinking alcohol remains routine for others, he spoke to the truth of the “one day at a time” aphorism, which helps millions of people maintain their daily victories over brain signals that have been permanently altered by addiction. “I’ve got today locked down,” he said, “and I’m fairly confident about tomorrow, and after that, I’m still working on it.”

Following Mr. Steinberg’s remarks, TASC Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Palanca moderated a panel discussion on prevention. “There are many ways to get to where we want to get,” said Palanca, “and that’s to spare families from the pain and loss of a loved one.”

Sara Howe, CEO of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association (IADDA) highlighted the importance of public policies to support effective prevention and intervention strategies and programs. She also emphasized that prevention must be community-based and tailored to the needs and norms of individual communities, and directly inclusive of youth voices and perspectives. For instance, the idea of IADDA’s Operation Snowball is that positive peer reinforcement can snowball from one youth to another.

Dr. Celeste Napier, director of the Research and Recovery Center for Compulsive Behaviors and Addiction at the Rush University Medical Center agreed that positive options and youth-centered messages work. ‘We need to tool our teenagers with these very good substitutions.They’re wired to be persuaded by their peers.”

Dr. Napier described the biological functioning of the adolescent brain, including natural tendencies toward risk-taking and susceptibility to addiction. When it comes to stigma around the use of different drugs, addiction is nonselective in whom it picks. “We’re talking about brain biology,” she said. “Addiction does not discriminate.”

Dr. Kristina Peterson, assistant professor of Counseling and Human Services at Roosevelt University, cautioned against complacency in prevention, intervention, and treatment. She advised prevention professionals and parents to stay informed and keep an open mind “because things change quickly and each person is different.”

Dr. Peterson told of an exercise she gives to her students to help them understand addiction. Students volunteer to go two weeks without using anything that can be addictive, and they keep journals to record the surprising challenges they face in, for example, living without caffeine for a few days. “If they’re going to be social workers, they have to know,” said Dr. Peterson.

Ed Stellon, senior director of the Heartland Center for Systems Change at the Heartland Alliance, spoke of the importance of open lines of communication with young people, and the healing power of trusting relationships. “It’s a process,” he said of youth who experiment with addictive substances. “At every point there’s an opportunity for intervention.”

From their perspectives as researchers, professors, practitioners, and parents, all the panelists agreed that the realities of addiction cannot be ignored. “Said Dr. Napier, “Our society is going to fail if we cannot get our hands around this addiction problem.”

Governor Pat Quinn congratulates TASC’s Tommie Johnson on being honored as an Outstanding Preventionist by the Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundation.

September is Recovery Month: Join the Voices for Recovery

September is National Recovery Month, a time to collectively promote and support recovery from mental and substance use disorders, to celebrate people and families in recovery, and to laud the contributions of treatment and service providers.

TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) invites you to join us at one of the following Recovery Month events, or find other events near you in communities across the country.

Saturday, Sept. 8, 11AM- 4PM:  Outside the Walls: A Day of Family Unity and Community Reconciliation

  • Sponsored by the Winners’ Circle, this is a day of family unity and community reconciliation featuring Gospel Music (Hope House Men’s Choir, Serenity Drum Corps, First Holy Choir, New Mt. Moriah Choir, and many more); inspirational and motivational speeches by religious and civic leaders; gift bags with CDs, books, tapes, faith-based inspiration and more; school supplies for children; commemorative t-shirts; HIV/AIDS screenings and testing, and more.

Wed-Thu, Sept. 12-13:  Illinois Specialty Courts Conference

  • The Illinois Association of Drug Court Professionals (IADCP) and Mental Health Court Association of Illinois (MHCAI) have traditionally held two separate annual conferences. These associations are merging their annual conferences for 2012.

Saturday, Sept. 15, 11AM- 3PM:  Recovery Rally on the Rock

  • The 4th Annual Recovery on the Rock event will highlight and celebrate recovery efforts taking place throughout the Rockford area. The event will feature speakers, informational resources, and community festivities for an informative and fun afternoon.

Saturday, Sept. 22, 8AM- 1PM:  Governors State University Addiction Studies Alumni Club Walk for Recovery

  • Governor State University’s Walk for Recovery will honor individuals recovering and seeking recovery, and will also celebrate the treatment and support providers committed to helping people and families affected by addiction.

Click here to see all September Recovery Month events in Illinois.  If you or someone you know needs help finding or sustaining recovery, please click here for information and links to resources.

National Recovery Month is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

 

TASC, Coalition for Whole Health Recommend Coverage of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services in Essential Health Benefit Package

(Chicago, IL) — Substance use disorder and mental health services must receive equitable coverage in the implementation of health care reform, according to the Coalition for Whole Health, a group of national organizations that seek improved coverage for and access to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and recovery services. TASC is an active member of the Coalition.

Based the standards of the National Quality Forum and other extensively researched protocols and evidence-based practices, the Coalition recommends that under the Affordable Care Act (health care reform), the essential health benefits package must minimally include the benefits outlined below:

  • Mental health and substance use disorder assessment, placement, and treatment
  • Laboratory services, including drug testing
  • Emergency services, including crisis services and hospital-based detoxification services
  • Pharmacotherapy and medication-assisted treatment
  • Rehabilitative, habilitative, and recovery support services
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
  • Maternal and newborn services, including screening and brief interventions for maternal depression and substance use disorders and referral to treatment
  • Pediatric services, including screening for substance use, suicide risk, and other mental health problems

As a significant step toward creating a healthy and just society, TASC supports these recommendations for improved coverage and access to care. To read the Coalition’s recommendations in full, please click here.

To find additional resources and webinars on the coverage of substance use disorder and mental health services under health care reform, please visit the Legal Action Center’s page on National Healthcare Reform.

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