Governor Rauner, Illinois Lawmakers Weigh in on New Pre-Arrest Diversion Legislation

(Chicago) — Illinois lawmakers weighed in on the significance of Senate Bill 3023, signed on Wednesday by Governor Bruce Rauner. The first state legislation to authorize a comprehensive array of pre-arrest diversion program approaches, it supports law enforcement officers in creating handoffs to community-based treatment when they see people who have overdosed or are showing other signs of substance use disorder.

“Our police officers want to help us solve the problem, not just punish people,” said Rauner. “This effort builds community and allows our law enforcement and peace officers a way to give people help instead of a criminal record.”

The legislation supports “deflection” of individuals with substance use problems away from the justice system and into addiction treatment services. Traditionally, law enforcement has been faced with two options: arrest or walk away. Deflection provides a third option: connecting people to treatment and/or other social supports.

Chief sponsors Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake), Senator Tim Bivins (R-Dixon) Representative Marcus C. Evans, Jr. (D-Chicago) and Representative Tom Demmer (R-Rochelle) spoke of its significance.

“We know the factors involved with treating mental health and substance abuse are multilayered and complex,” said Bush. “Early detection is key, as both issues can manifest into a lifetime of challenges if left untreated.”

“Substance abuse contributes to crime, hurts Illinois families and deteriorates communities,” said Evans. “Our Illinois law enforcement and human services leaders understand this reality, and I applaud their support of a solution in the form of SB 3023. I am happy to see this community- and family-improving idea become law.”

The bill originated based on the successes of the Safe Passage program in Dixon and A Way Out in Lake County, Illinois.

Demmer, whose district includes Dixon, lauded the role of the Safe Passage program as a model for the legislation. “Dixon has had great success with 215 people placed directly into treatment over incarceration,” he said. “This has resulted in a 39 percent reduction in arrests for drug crimes, as well as properly deflecting people to get the medically driven substance abuse help they need instead of making it difficult for them to get help because of a criminal record.”

“This new law focuses on preventive measures in dealing with the opioid crisis and other substance abuse issues,” said Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon). “It partners law enforcement agencies with licensed substance abuse service providers to treat individuals with substance abuse problems before they are arrested. Getting these individuals help before they enter the jail system will make it easier for them to resume their daily routines later without a criminal record, and will reduce the burden on local jail and court systems.”

“Deflection programs provide police officers with another option when dealing with someone they believe may have opioid or other substance abuse problems,” said Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods), who also sponsored the bill. “Continuously arresting and locking up such troubled individuals rarely fixes their underlying issue. It is my hope that with these deflection programs, we can get people the treatment and help they need to get better.”

Advancing Pre-Arrest Diversion in Illinois and Nationally

Leaders of the Safe Passage and A Way Out initiatives — Dixon City Manager and former Police Chief Danny Langloss and Police Chief Eric Guenther of Mundelein in Lake County, respectively — worked with TASC to spearhead the legislation.

“Senate Bill 3023 is the first of its kind legislation and recognizes a paradigm shift in law enforcement’s approach to those who struggle with substance use,” said Guenther. “I am very proud to have been a part of creating this legislation.”

“This is a hopeful day for Illinois law enforcement and those suffering from substance use disorder,” said Langloss. “The national opioid epidemic continues to impact every community. More than 72,000 Americans lost their lives last year to drug overdose. Behind every death there is a family. With this bill, the police now have new programs at their disposal that save lives and make our communities safer.

“We saw the successes of Chiefs Guenther and Langloss as meaningful and timely, and we wanted to help bring these opportunities for treatment to residents across the state,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “From our work in the justice system, from police to parole and all points between, we’ve seen that public policy can serve as a launching pad for significant progress. This legislation is an example of that.”

As police departments across the country began developing programs in response to the opioid crisis at an increasing pace, TASC’s Center for Health and Justice identified five overarching pathways by which law enforcement was diverting or “deflecting” people away from arrest and into treatment, housing, and social supports in the community. Building from this work, Jac Charlier, national director for justice initiatives at TASC, co-founded the Police, Treatment, and Community Collaborative (PTACC), a national alliance of practitioners in law enforcement, behavioral health, community, advocacy, research, and public policy working to strategically widen  community behavioral health and social service options available through law enforcement diversion.

PTACC has illustrated these five pathways by which police departments are making connections to community-based treatment and social services; law enforcement and community partners can choose any or all of these pathways based on local needs and resources.

“Based on TASC’s and PTACC’s work identifying, communicating, and shaping deflection concepts and strategies nationally, it’s gratifying to see my home state of Illinois take the lead in shaping this public policy,” said Charlier. “We are seeding a national movement for the newly emerging field of deflection and pre-arrest diversion, which promises to reshape the relationship between law enforcement, behavioral health, and our communities to better respond to people with serious mental illness, save lives in the opioid epidemic, make our neighborhoods safer by reducing crime, and allowing police to better focus their resources on crime fighting.”

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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 that 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.

U.S. Senate Passes Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), Bipartisan Bill Moves to House of Representatives

On March 10, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). The legislation embodies a comprehensive response to addiction and the opioid crisis, earning the support of over 130 organizations—including TASC—in the fields of prevention, treatment, recovery, law enforcement, and state and local governments.

CARA garnered strong, bipartisan support in the Senate, passing on a vote of 94-1. Among the bill’s strong leaders and supporters were Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), as well as both Illinois Senators, Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL).

More people died in 2014 from drug overdoses than in any previous year on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority of people who need addiction treatment do not receive it. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that only 2.6 million of the 22.5 million people across the country who needed help with a substance use disorder got it in 2014. The treatment gap also exists for people in prisons and jails, where an estimated 85 percent have been found to be substance-involved, but only 11 percent received any kind of treatment.

CARA’s key provisions include:

  • Expanding the availability of naloxone—an overdose antidote—to law enforcement and first responders to help save lives.
  • Expanding resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals with addiction disorders promptly by collaborating with criminal justice stakeholders and by providing evidence­based treatment.
  • Launching an evidence-­based opioid and heroin treatment and intervention program to expand best practices throughout the country.
  • Launching a medication-assisted treatment and intervention demonstration program.

Appropriations to implement the bill were not included in the legislation.

For more information about CARA, visit here, and to ask your U.S. Representative to support the bill, click here.

 

TASC VP, Experts Spotlight Prevention, Treatment Funding at Illinois House Heroin Hearing

TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca testifies before House Task Force on Heroin Crisis (photo: David Ormsby)

TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca testifies before the Illinois House Task Force on Heroin Crisis (photo: David Ormsby)

(Chicago) – A top TASC official, a local prosecutor, and health experts sent a clear message to lawmakers at an Illinois House heroin hearing this week: prevention and treatment funding are a priority.

The new House Task Force on Heroin Crisis held its first hearing in Chicago on Tuesday and took testimony from health and criminal justice experts, including TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca.

House task force members present at the hearing – State Reps. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), who chairs the panel, Patricia Bellock (R-Hinsdale), Dan Brady (R-Bloomington), Mary Flowers (D-Chicago), Esther Golar (D-Chicago), and Chris Welch (D-Hillside) – heard witnesses testify on multiple dimensions of Illinois’ heroin crisis. In addition to treatment and prevention funding, testifiers highlighted the science of addiction, describing it as a “medical disease,” and cited the law enforcement challenge of stopping illegal drug sales happening by way of pre-paid mobile phones that lack owner identification.

DuPage County Coroner Dr. Richard Jorgensen, a former emergency room surgeon, explained to legislators the medical impact of heroin on the brain and stressed how the drug’s purity has intensified. He also issued an alarm about the over-prescription of opiate painkillers.

Of those who become addicted to heroin, he said, “Most people become addicted through prescription drugs, and then turn to heroin because it’s cheaper.”

Additionally, Jorgensen emphasized that heroin use is a medical issue, not a criminal justice issue.

“You can’t criminalize your way out of this epidemic,” said Jorgensen. “I really believe that all the prevention dollars that you put in come back many times over.”

TASC’s Palanca bluntly told the committee that solutions are well known and need to be implemented. “The solutions aren’t rocket science and they need to be brought to scale,” said Palanca. “Those solutions include use of proven medications, evidence-based treatment, and prevention.”

Lang told Palanca that the task force plans on leaning on his organization’s expertise.

“We know because of the history of your fine organization that you have a lot to offer us,” said Lang.

Dr. Joseph Troiani, director of Behavioral Health Programs for the Will County Health Department, pointed to the heavy budget cuts inflicted on Illinois’ drug prevention and treatment programs, noting that prevention funding has been cut 88% and drug treatment more than 40% since 2009.

Troiani also stressed that Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act provides an opportunity to expand treatment services, but warned that the issue of capacity – building facilities – needs to be addressed, saying that capital funding for bricks and mortar is critical.

Following testimony by Dr. Seth Eisenberg, medical director for the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Lang asked Eisenberg to “provide to this committee your ideal budget. We know there’s been a cut. What would it take?”

Also testifying at the hearing were Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Narcotics Prosecution Bureau Chief Brian Sexton, and April Marin and Cassandra Wingert, family members of heroin overdose victims.

Marin testified that her 20-year-old son, whom she suspects was trying heroin for the first time, had typed into Google just days before he died from an overdose, “How much heroin can you safely snort?”

Marin has made it her mission to promote intervention, education, and prevention, entreating legislators for their support.

Madison County, IL Curbs Heroin Fatalities; Deaths Climb in DuPage, Marion, Winnebago

(Chicago, IL) – As heroin deaths surge in several Illinois counties, Madison County has answers that can slam the brakes on fatalities.

Heroin killed at least 15 people in DuPage County in July alone, and Winnebago County is experiencing record overdose death rates. Similar stories are emerging from Marion County and elsewhere across Illinois. Nationwide, heroin use has doubled in the past decade.

Meanwhile, in Madison County last year, an alarming spike in opiate-related deaths among people newly released from jail or residential drug treatment led to a quick and coordinated response to prevent further fatalities.

Between April 2011 and June 2012, opiate overdose had killed eight TASC clients in Madison County. That crisis prompted a team response by the Madison County probation department, jail personnel, treatment providers, and TASC. In July 2012, they implemented the Madison County Opiate Alert Project, which involved closely tracking probationers with heroin addictions as they were released from incarceration or treatment. By communicating immediately with one another regarding these high-risk cases, the intervention team saved lives.

Since the project’s launch one year ago, no TASC client has died from a heroin overdose. (See story on page 4 of TASC’s Spring 2013 News & Views.)

“When a person addicted to heroin or other opiates spends weeks or months in jail, and then returns to the drug upon release, there is a strong likelihood for overdose,” said TASC Operations Director Craig Cooper. “But thanks to partnerships between probation, the jail, treatment programs, and TASC, Madison County has a heroin overdose prevention strategy that so far has exceeded our hopes and expectations. We are committed to our strong collaboration because we know we’re saving lives.”

The project has lessons for other counties that are facing the same crisis.

“This initiative shows that heroin deaths are indeed preventable when we follow what the research dictates and when we implement partnerships and practices accordingly,” said TASC President Pamela Rodriguez.

“Nevertheless, a key to any drug prevention strategy is adequate funding to fully confront a drug epidemic, so that lessons learned in one area can be applied on a broad scale. A crisis such as what we’re seeing with heroin, in all of its dimensions, needs a coordinated response, whether it targets probationers in Madison County or youth in DuPage County,” stated Rodriguez. “And on this point Illinois has fallen flat, gutting its prevention funding in recent years.”

The state has nearly eliminated drug prevention funding since 2009, and has slashed funding for treatment by a third.

“We are witnessing a public health crisis in Illinois without adequate resources to fight it,” Rodriguez said. “But we will keep fighting.”

For more on responding to the heroin crisis in Illinois, please see previous post: Heroin Deaths Surge in DuPage; Good Samaritan Law and Emergency Meds Can Prevent Fatalities But They’re Not Enough