June 26 is International Day Against Drug Abuse; TASC Hosts Caribbean Delegation Visit of Model Justice Interventions

(Chicago) — To promote an international society free of drug abuse, June 26 is designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. As an active partner with national and international bodies committed to reducing substance use disorders and their consequences, TASC has been recognized as a model for advancing collaborative strategies to divert people with substance use disorders away from the justice system and into treatment and recovery in the community.

Most recently, in collaboration with criminal justice partners in Cook County, TASC hosted a delegation of high-level justice and health officials from Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica, who visited Chicago June 11-12 to explore innovative practices in implementing alternatives to incarceration.

Organized by the Organization of American States (OAS) with the support of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and the Canadian Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP), the visit offered a unique opportunity for delegates to converse directly with leaders in Cook County (encompassing Chicago) who implement justice diversion practices.

As part of the OAS, the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) provides technical assistance to OAS member states in the implementation of alternatives to incarceration. For the June visit, CICAD partnered in Chicago with TASC, and in New York with the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), both of which have earned recognition for designing, implementing, and promoting alternatives to incarceration.

In Cook County, the formal visit featured meetings with several justice leaders and dignitaries, including segments at the Cook County Jail with Sheriff Tom Dart; at the Cook County Criminal Courts Building with Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division LeRoy K. Martin Jr., Associate Judge James B. Linn, and Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli; and at the Chicago Police Department with 11th District Commander Kevin Johnson. The delegation also visited TASC’s Supportive Release Center near the jail, which offers an overnight stay and linkage to services for individuals with complex needs, and later met U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL), champion of the landmark Second Chance Act.

Throughout the two-day visit to Cook County, discussions focused on diversion strategies, including care coordination and embedded case management, that guide men and women who have substance use disorders away from the justice system and into community-based treatment.

“Because TASC is baked into the criminal justice system in Illinois, the justice system presents a more human face—with a focus on the individual—and promotes public health and human rights,” said Ambassador Adam Namm, Executive Secretary of the OAS, who led the Caribbean delegation. “That is exactly what the OAS promotes as an organization. So there’s great synergy.”

“We are grateful to the support of the U.S. State Department’s INL, to OAS/CICAD, and to Global Affairs Canada for making important international exchanges like this possible,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “With thanks to our justice system partners, Cook County continues to be a model nationally and internationally, and we are glad to be able to help show the value and breadth of these collaborative efforts.”

For more than two decades, TASC has worked with federal and international partners to promote community-based systems of addiction recovery around the world. Among these activities, and through the leadership and support of INL, TASC has offered curriculum development and week-long training events provided by TASC teams in South Africa, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

In addition, TASC is a member organization of the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs, comprised of some 200 organizations from across the globe who are engaged in service delivery, advocacy, research, and evaluation at international, regional, and national levels. The VNGOC provides a link between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Vienna-based agencies involved in setting drug policy: the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Working together with local, national, and international partners, TASC is committed to shared goals of reducing substance use disorders and their consequences worldwide.

June 2018: TASC leaders welcomed OAS/CICAD delegation from Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica.

Ambassador Adam Namm, Executive Secretary of the OAS, led the Caribbean delegation visit to TASC and alternative-to-incarceration programs in Cook County, Illinois.

TASC President Pam Rodriguez welcomed OAS/CICAD delegates and presented a breadth of program and policy opportunities available to implement criminal justice diversion programs.

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May 3 Twitter Chat: #RecoveryNotArrest

(Chicago) – TASC and its Center for Health and Justice – @TASC-CHJ on Twitter – will participate in a May 3 twitter chat hosted by the Pretrial Justice Institute to discuss the role of behavioral health in pretrial justice.

From 1-2 PM Central time (2-3 PM Eastern), participants will discuss the intersection of pre-arrest diversion and pretrial justice, including how justice partners and behavioral health service providers can collaborate to divert people with substance use and mental health conditions into treatment in the community.

The hashtag for the conversation is #RecoveryNotArrest.

TASC and its Center for Health and Justice have been working closely with PJI, the Police, Treatment, and Community Collaborative (PTAC Collaborative), and partners across the country to advance pre-arrest diversion as a means to help reduce drug use and overdose deaths, improve public safety, reduce incarceration and its collateral consequences, and improve relations between law enforcement and communities.

For example, Illinois Senate Bill 3023 proposes to create the Community-Law Enforcement Partnership for Deflection and Substance Use Disorder Treatment Act, authorizing and encouraging local law enforcement leaders to partner with treatment and community members on programs that “deflect” individuals who have overdosed or who have substance use problems away from the justice system and into addiction treatment services. Championed in the Illinois State Senate by Chief Sponsor Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) and Co-Chief Sponsor Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon), and in the State House by Chief Sponsor Rep. Marcus Evans, Jr. (D-Chicago), the bill is a joint initiative of the Dixon Police Department, the Mundelein Police Department, and TASC, and currently has more than 140 proponents, including more than 85 police departments and law enforcement associations across the state.

Hosted by the Pretrial Justice Institute, participants in the May 3 #RecoveryNotArrest Twitter chat include the partners above, among many others.

 

 

Senate Panel OKs Bush Bill to Give Police, Communities “Road Map” to Fight Opioid Crisis

(Grayslake, IL) – An Illinois Senate panel has approved a bipartisan plan that authorizes local police departments and community partners to develop local strategies to fight the Illinois opioid crisis.

The Senate Human Services Committee on April 10 voted 8-0 to advance legislation, Senate Bill 3023, that encourages local law enforcement to “deflect” from criminal arrest individuals who have overdosed or who have substance use problems, directing them instead into substance use disorder treatment.

The “Community-Law Enforcement Partnership for Deflection and Substance Use Disorder Treatment Act,” which is sponsored by State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) and State Senator Tim Bivins (R-Dixon), provides a “roadmap” for partnerships between law enforcement, substance use treatment providers, and community members to guide the development of deflection programs in their communities, according to one of the bill’s chief proponents.

“Traditionally, local police have had two choices when faced with someone who they believe may have a substance use disorder—to arrest or to not arrest,” said Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) President Pam Rodriguez. “With the opioid crisis raging across the state, deflection provides a third option, to connect people with community-based substance use treatment services that address their underlying substance use problems. This bill lays out a roadmap to municipalities, offering guidance, program features, and a range of options.”

The number of Illinois overdose deaths from all opioids increased by 82% from 2013 to 2016.

The bill, which is also an initiative of the Village of Mundelein’s police chief and director of public safety, Eric Guenther, and the City of Dixon’s former police chief and current city manager, Danny Langloss, ensures that the impact of the programs is measured by requiring the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) to lead the development of a set of minimum data to be collected and, for programs that receive funding, serve as a performance measurement system. Mundelein and Dixon’s police departments already operate deflection programs.

“The data collection provisions also provide a platform for ensuring that the racial disparities present in the criminal justice system can be prevented in deflection programs as they develop,” said Rodriguez. “The data collection and analysis are a crucial component.”

At the Senate committee hearing, a diverse group of 157 proponents filed their support for the legislation, including the League of Women Voters of Illinois, Illinois State University Police, the Illinois State Medical Society, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Illinois State’s Attorneys Association, the Chicago Urban League, and the City of Chicago Heights, among others.

Rodriguez also expressed her appreciation of the bipartisan leadership of Senators Bush and Bivins.

“We must recognize the bipartisan leadership of Senator Bush and Senator Bivins for advancing this legislation and their commitment to fighting the opioid scourge in Illinois,” said Rodriguez. “Because of them, Illinois is the first state in the nation to consider deflection legislation this comprehensive.”

The bill now faces the full Senate.

Leaders in Transforming Health and Justice Recognized at TASC’s 2017 Leadership Awards Luncheon

(Chicago) – Nearly 300 guests attended TASC’s 2017 Leadership Awards Luncheon in Chicago on December 14 to honor Jessica Hulsey Nickel and Howard A. Peters III, respected champions of health and justice reforms.

Speakers shared inspiring tributes and echoed the importance of uplifting people who need help, and creating a society where fairness and access to health are the norms.

“I know firsthand the impact that substance abuse can have on individuals’ lives and the collateral damage that can occur among families when a loved one has the illness of addiction,” said TASC Board Vice Chair and Event Committee Chair John Zielinski in opening the event at the Westin Michigan Avenue. “I also know and believe in the importance of second chances. People can and do recover.”

TASC Board Chair Michelle Montgomery spoke of the importance of TASC’s work in diverting people who have with underlying substance use or mental health problems away from the justice system, and instead into treatment and other services in the community. She emphasized the need to address racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, where people of color are more likely to be arrested, to be offered a plea that includes prison time, and more likely to serve longer sentences than white Americans who commit the same offenses.

“This is devastating, and it is wrong,” said Montgomery. “We know that once an individual comes into contact with the justice system, it becomes exponentially harder to recover.

“Incarceration affects not just the individual—it severely disrupts whole families through multiple generations, devastating entire communities. As I speak, we are seeing this both in Illinois and across the nation. That is why I believe so strongly in TASC’s work in disrupting these cycles.”

Howard Peters Accepts TASC’s 2017 Justice Leadership Award

With a mission of addressing these inequities, TASC presents its Justice Leadership Award each year to a leader who has demonstrated a commitment to creating fairer, more equitable systems of justice.

With a long career of service leadership, including as director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, and later as the first secretary of what became the Illinois Department of Human Services, Howard Peters, TASC’s 2017 Justice Leadership honoree, “has the perspective and vision of a leader who has worked on all sides of the issues we address, from criminal justice to human services to healthcare,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez in presenting the award.

It was under Peters’ leadership of IDOC in the early 1990s that TASC began to offer pre- and post-release case management services for individuals leaving certain state prisons in Illinois, noted Rodriguez. Later, as the head of DHS, he oversaw all state-administered human services, including substance use and mental health, employment programs, youth services, and other programs that address poverty.

“He understands the interconnection of all these issues, and how the solutions to problems need to be comprehensive and inclusive,” said Rodriguez, who served alongside Peters on the recent Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. “When he would speak, he would change the conversation. He would ask questions that would cause people to think differently and strategize in new ways… His steady voice, deep compassion, and consistent leadership are part of what shape the criminal justice reforms happening in Illinois today.”

In accepting TASC’s award, Peters gave special credit those who shaped his early years, and who instilled in him a sense of obligation to do good in the world.

“Whatever are our accomplishments, no matter how grand or modest, they aren’t ours alone,” he said, sharing stories of how he was influenced and inspired by his mother, his grandmother, an influential second grade teacher, an inspiring college mentor, and his wife of 50 years, Beverly Peters.

“We are obligated to serve, we are obligated to support good work,” he said. “And that is why I am proud today to be in this room with you—because you are engaged in important work, you are supporting work that will determine whether children across Illinois will survive… and how well they will survive, and whether we will have a society in which we can take pride.”

Jessica Nickel Accepts TASC’s 2017 Public Voice Leadership Award

Creating such a society is also the life’s work of Jessica Nickel, TASC’s 2017 Public Voice Award Honoree and founder of the national Addiction Policy Forum.

Nickel played a critical leadership role in shaping and advancing federal legislation to improve justice and support recovery, including the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, which supports a wide range of responses to addiction, including criminal justice diversion initiatives, and the Second Chance Act, which has transformed the landscape of reentry programs across the country since it was signed into law in 2008.

“I have known Jessica for more than a decade, and from the start, she impressed me with her sense of urgency, her deep commitment, and her unwavering belief that we can – and must – give hope and help to families that are dealing with addiction,” said Rodriguez.

In accepting the award, Nickel noted that the Second Chance Act, co-sponsored by Illinois Congressman Danny K. Davis and Ohio Congressman (now Senator) Rob Portman, came about with the intent to re-envision how people reenter the community after jail and prison. Through this work, Nickel was introduced to TASC leaders Rodriguez, then vice president of TASC; TASC Vice President of Community and Government Affairs George Williams; and Melody Heaps, then president (now retired) of TASC.

“I’m proud of that work, and grateful and proud of the cooperation with TASC,” said Nickel.

Modeling this collaborative model of engagement that propelled the ongoing success of the Second Chance Act, Nickel is dedicated to changing the way society responds to addiction.

“Let’s re-envision how we respond to addiction in this country,” said Nickel. “Instead of playing whack-a-mole with one drug against the other… or playing that sort of favorite child of which response we’re going to work on—treatment or prevention or recovery or criminal justice—let’s put our heads together and think of something different.”

With this commitment, Nickel has assembled leading experts who understand addiction as a public health issue, and, in a short time, has built a strong and growing coalition of families, advocates, policymakers, community leaders, and corporations who share in this commitment.

“Through her voice, her organizing ability, her passion, and her impressive, first-hand knowledge of how to make major policy changes happen, Jessica is helping communities across the country make strides against addiction and its consequences. She’s bringing forth practical solutions… to help families and communities that want to know what works and what they can do,” said Rodriguez.

Among the luncheon guests were three past TASC Leadership Award recipients: retired WGN News Anchor Robert Jordan (2013 Public Voice Leadership Award), Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (2011 Public Voice Leadership Award), and Heaps (2010 Justice Leadership Award), who founded TASC as an Illinois nonprofit organization in 1976.

Also recognized were TASC’s 2017 event sponsors: elite sponsor Alkermes; select sponsors: John Greene and William Blair; and friend of TASC sponsors Yes Lifecycle Marketing, Gateway, BMO Harris Bank, HAS, Janssen, Meridian Health, and Rosecrance; with thanks also to numerous advocate sponsors, community sponsors, and raffle prize donors.

2017 TASC Leadership Awards Luncheon — Back row (l. to r.): Sue Thau, Toni Preckwinkle, Jessica Nickel, Pam Rodriguez. Front row: Howard Peters IV, Howard Peters III, Beverly Peters. (Photo by Uk Studio, Inc.)

Addiction Policy Forum Announces New Initiatives and Partnerships to Address the Opioid Crisis

(Chicago) — The Addiction Policy Forum, of which TASC is a national partner, has announced several new initiatives to help families in the United States struggling with opioid addiction and other substance use disorders. The programs put in motion key elements of the organization’s multi-year plan announced in October, which offers a comprehensive approach to addressing the growing opioid epidemic.

The Addiction Policy Forum is led by Jessica Hulsey Nickel, who will receive TASC’s 2017 Public Voice Leadership Award at TASC’s annual luncheon in Chicago on December 14.

“The Addiction Policy Forum is making important progress in addressing the disease of addiction,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “A multi-faceted approach is needed for this complex challenge we face as a country. We look forward to working with the Forum on evidence-based programs that aim to improve the criminal justice response to substance use disorders.”

As active partners in the Forum since its inception in 2015, TASC and its Center for Health and Justice offer practical experience and expertise in criminal justice diversion and reentry strategies, while also promoting innovative programs that are making a difference in communities across the country.

“We hear all too often that families and community leaders don’t know where to turn for services that can help loved ones who are in crisis – or prevent the crisis from happening in the first place,” said Nickel, president and chief executive officer of the Addiction Policy Forum. “By working closely to families and experts in the field, we’re creating localized resources and evidence-based tools that will make a real difference in addressing substance use disorders. We are grateful to all of our partner organizations for their ongoing commitment to this important issue.”

The Addiction Policy Forum represents a diverse partnership of organizations, policymakers, and stakeholders committed to working together to elevate awareness around addiction, and to improve programs and policy through a comprehensive response that includes prevention, treatment, recovery, and criminal justice reform.

National Public Health Emergency Declared in Face of Opioid Crisis; TASC and Partners Collaborating to Offer Solutions and Strategies

(Chicago) – Drug overdoses killed more than 64,000 people in the United States in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s an average of 175 people per day.

On October 26, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency, “directing all executive agencies to use every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis.”

In his announcement, the President indicated that a new policy would overcome the Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion that disallows Medicaid payment for certain services at substance use disorder treatment facilities that have more than 16 beds. He also discussed measures to confront illegal drug trafficking, improve safe prescribing practices, and develop non-addictive painkillers.

No requests for federal funding were attached to the announcement.

“What’s important for people to know is that, with funding, there are solutions that can be brought to bear on this crisis,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “From Chicago to Rockford to the Metro-East region of Illinois, and from Maryland to Ohio, we have been working closely with communities severely affected by this crisis. We are finding and delivering solutions together.”

Nationally, the Addiction Policy Forum, of which TASC is a partner, shares innovative approaches happening in communities across the country, from home-based treatment to family recovery initiatives. Earlier this week, APF shared eight priorities to address addiction in the United States, from helping families in crisis to expanding treatment access to reframing criminal justice.

Collaborative Solutions and Strategies for Justice Systems

Opioid use disorders are highly prevalent among criminal justice populations, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Furthermore, a Washington State study showed that the risk of dying within the first two weeks of release from prison are 12 times higher than for other state residents, with overdose being the leading cause of death.

Working with expert researchers, justice leaders, and practitioners across the country, the Center for Health and Justice at TASC has developed collaborative opioid response strategies and solutions for all points in the justice system, beginning with law enforcement and through to parole.

“As first responders, law enforcement officers often are on the front lines of the epidemic. Not only can they carry naloxone to revive individuals who have overdosed, but can save a lives again by placing people in treatment instead of arresting them,” said Jac Charlier, national director for justice initiatives at the Center for Health and Justice at TASC.

“When police, treatment, and communities work together, there’s an array of public health responses that can happen pre-arrest, before people enter the justice system.”

To this end, TASC is a founding partner in the Policy, Treatment, and Community (PTAC) Collaborative, whose mission is to increase health and public safety by widening community and behavioral health and social service options available through law enforcement diversion. Sharing research and information on robust partnerships to confront the opioid crisis in local jurisdictions, the PTAC Collaborative will hold its inaugural conference on pre-arrest diversion in March 2018.

TASC’s Center for Health and Justice also has worked with partners to develop collaborative responses for jails, courts, and reentry phases of the justice system, as well as tools and strategies that span the continuum, including rapid assessment and treatment capacity expansion.

Additionally, the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence released a fact sheet earlier this week on the use of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder in the justice system. TASC participated in the expert panel cited in the report.

“Families and communities are hurting,” said Rodriguez. “We’re joining forces with policymakers, justice leaders, and practitioners to help people and communities get the services they need. We need to keep people alive.”

To learn more, visit the Center for Health and Justice (CHJ) at TASC, or contact Jac Charlier, national director for justice initiatives at CHJ.

Op-Ed by TASC President: Cook County State’s Attorney Report “Bold and Refreshing”

The new data report issued by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is a bold and refreshing step toward transparency in government and criminal justice reform. For the lead prosecutor of a major county to offer such a wealth of useful and important information is practically unheard of anywhere in the country.

The report offers a snapshot of who is coming into the justice system and how cases are processed. By presenting data on more than 30,000 cases—including breakdowns of offense charges, case dispositions, sentences, and demographic information—the report offers a trove of vital information that will help inform and shape future policy and program directions. 

We must also mention the leading role the State’s Attorney’s Office takes in diverting people out of the system who need not be in it.

Working with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) helped divert more than 3,000 men and women out of the front end of the justice system last year through the Cook County Deferred Prosecution Program and First-Time Offender Drug Diversion Program. In each of these programs, individuals volunteer to participate in intensive services or classes, and may be eligible to have their charges dropped or expunged once they successfully complete the program requirements. 

These and similar alternative prosecution programs help relieve pressure on the justice system, save taxpayer dollars, and often give participants the opportunity to address their behavior and avoid further entanglement with the justice system.

We applaud Kim Foxx for her leadership, and are proud to work with her office to advance and accelerate efforts towards a better system of justice.

TASC President Pam Rodriguez

Pamela F. Rodriguez is president and CEO of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC, Inc.) and a member of Governor Rauner’s Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform.