TASC, National Judicial College Offer Self-Study Courses on Addiction for Criminal Justice Practitioners

(Chicago) – In the face of a national opioid crisis, and recognizing that most people entering the justice system have recently used illicit drugs and/or have a substance use disorder, the Center for Health and Justice at TASC and the National Judicial College (NJC) have co-developed three new self-study courses to support justice leaders in implementing evidence-based responses to help stop cycles of drug use and crime.

These free, online courses provide timely information and practical solutions offered by top national researchers in addiction and criminal justice. They were created as a result of TASC’s and NJC’s collaborative work in leading the Justice Leaders Systems Change Initiative (JLSCI), which supports jurisdictions across the country in leveraging local resources to create and implement collaborative responses to substance use disorders.

The courses present several key topics requested by jurisdictions, including research on how the brain is affected by addiction, implications for evidence-based sentencing options, and information on medication-assisted treatment.

Available by clicking on the titles below and registering through the NJC website, these free courses include:

The Neuroscience of Addiction. This self-study course offers an introduction to the opiate epidemic, why individuals use drugs, and the long-term effects of addictive drugs on the brain. Designed for judges, probation staff, and other criminal justice system stakeholders, the course takes approximately two hours to complete, and is presented by NJC distinguished faculty member Timothy P. Condon, PhD, a preeminent expert in the neuroscience of addiction and its application to policy and practice.

Evidence-Based Sentencing for Drug Offenders. This self-study course addresses several aspects of sentencing and supervision of people with substance use disorders, including matching treatment and supervision to the individuals’ clinical needs and risks of reoffending. Providing tools, resources, and evidence-based approaches for judges, the course takes approximately two to four hours to complete, and is presented by NJC distinguished faculty member Roger Peters, PhD, a prolific author, researcher, and professor in the Department of Mental Health Law and Policy at the University of South Florida (USF).

Medication-Assisted Treatment. This self-study course addresses how medication-assisted therapies can be used to treat substance abuse disorders, including discussions on the opiate epidemic; the impact of addiction on the brain; relapse, overdose, and mortality rates; and how medication-assisted treatment can work. Designed for leaders and practitioners in criminal justice, the course takes approximately two to four hours to complete, and is presented by NJC distinguished faculty member Joshua D. Lee, MD, director of the NYU ABAM Fellowship in Addiction Medicine, and a clinician researcher focused on addiction pharmacotherapies.

Created by the Center for Health and Justice at TASC and the National Judicial College, the Justice Leaders Systems Change Initiative (JLSCI) helps local jurisdictions create and implement practical, collaborative responses to substance abuse and addiction among offenders and is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (SAMHSA/CSAT), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).

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Creating Institutional Change in the Criminal Justice System: White House Blog Post by Judge William Dressel

(Chicago, IL)  —  Judge William F. Dressel, president of the National Judicial College, discusses a collaborative effort for systems change in a new blog post for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The Judicial Leadership Systems Change Initiative was developed by the National Judicial College and TASC’s Center for Health and Justice, with support and participation from a number of researchers and federal entities, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (SAMHSA/CSAT), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).

Please read Judge Dressel’s post to find out about this innovative effort to help jurisdictions use science-based, systemwide responses to interrupt cycles of drug-related offenses. The initiative is promoted as a model for institutional change in the 2011 White House National Drug Control Strategy.

Survey: Drug Use Among 8th-Graders Surges; IL Treatment, Prevention Funding Cuts Aggravate Problem

(Chicago, IL) – Driven by increases in marijuana use, a new national survey says the rate of eighth-graders saying they have used an illicit drug in the past year jumped to 16 percent, up from 13 percent in 2007, but in Illinois, funding cuts to drug abuse prevention and treatment have left communities ill-equipped to respond to the spike, says a leading Illinois drug prevention advocate.

The survey, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), also shows that about half of 12th-graders have tried an illicit drug, with about one in 16 using marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis. Marijuana has surpassed cigarette smoking in some measures. In 2010, 21.4 percent of high school seniors used marijuana in the past 30 days, while 19.2 percent smoked cigarettes.

“Increased youth use of marijuana risks long-term addiction, education failure, and, in too many cases, criminal activity,” said Pamela Rodriguez, president of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC), a Chicago-based non-profit that advocates for people in courts, jails, prisons, and child welfare systems who need treatment for alcohol and drug problems.

“In fact, more than nine times out of 10, kids who are referred to TASC by the justice system are using marijuana. Often they’re having trouble with school or have already dropped out. They’re on a risky path toward addiction and crime.

“The Obama Administration recognizes the critical role that prevention and treatment play in reducing demand for illicit drugs, proposing this year a 13.4% increase in spending on alcohol and other drug prevention programs and a 3.7% increase for addiction treatment,” she said.

And yet in Illinois, the funding trend has gone in reverse.

“The State of Illinois has cut drug prevention and treatment funding by 30 percent in the past three years,” said Rodriguez, noting that the use of illicit drugs among youth has gone up during the same period that funding for prevention and treatment have gone down. “With unprecedented funding cuts, our efforts to curb the demand for illicit drugs are severely hampered.”

Most measures of marijuana use increased among eighth-graders, and daily marijuana use increased significantly among all three grade levels tested in the survey. The 2010 use rates were 6.1 percent of high school seniors, 3.3 percent of 10th-graders, and 1.2 percent of eighth-graders compared to 2009 rates of 5.2 percent, 2.8 percent, and 1.0 percent, respectively.

“These high rates of marijuana use during the teen and pre-teen years, when the brain continues to develop, places our young people at particular risk,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “Not only does marijuana affect learning, judgment, and motor skills, but research tells us that about one in six people who start using it as adolescents become addicted.”

“The increases in youth drug use reflected in the Monitoring the Future Study are disappointing,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “Mixed messages about drug legalization, particularly marijuana, may be to blame. Such messages certainly don’t help parents who are trying to prevent kids from using drugs.” 

The survey also showed a significant increase in the reported use of MDMA, or Ecstasy, with 2.4 percent of eighth-graders citing past-year use in 2010, compared to 1.3 percent in 2009.  Similarly, past-year MDMA use among 10th-graders increased to 4.7 percent in 2010 from 3.7 percent in 2009.

TASC President Melody Heaps Receives White House Award

Melody Heaps receives award from White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

Melody Heaps receives award from White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

(Washington, DC) — TASC Founder and President Melody Heaps was recognized by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) at a Washington reception in her honor on May 21.

Ed Jurith, General Counsel and recent Acting Director of ONDCP, presented Ms. Heaps with a framed award embossed with the White House seal.

Mr. Jurith cited Ms. Heaps’ lifelong professional commitment to applying public health and safety solutions to the complex and interrelated issues of drugs, poverty, and crime. The award read, in part, “Your contributions have been instrumental in guiding and developing major national initiatives, and your leadership has played a key role in the development and expansion of community-based treatment alternatives amd nationally recognized program models throughout the state of Illinois, and in the development of international policy.”

Leaders from National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, and numerous national organizations also expressed their gratitude to Ms. Heaps for her continuing leadership and service to the field.

After 33 years as head of Illinois TASC, Ms. Heaps will become TASC’s president emeritus and independent consultant on July 1.  Pam Rodriguez, TASC’s current executive vice president, will assume leadership of the statewide agency, which annually serves nearly 30,000 people in Illinois and provides training and consultation nationally.

National Institute on Drug Abuse Publishes TASC Research: Recovery­ Oriented Care for Drug ­Abusing Offenders

(Washington, D.C.) — A recovery­ oriented system of care for drug­ abusing criminal offenders is one that provides for continuity of treatment, using evidence ­based interventions at every stage as clients progress through the justice system.

The National Institute for Drug Abuse has recognized the importance of this model and published the TASC case for a recovery oriented system in its latest issue of NIDA Addiction Science & Clinical Practice.

TASC authors Melody Heaps, Arthur Lurigio, Pamela Rodriguez, Thomas Lyons, and Laura Brookes explain how TASC has partnered with criminal justice and drug treatment programs in Illinois to establish a basic recovery ­oriented system, with programs that span pre­adjudication, probation or incarceration, and parole.

Read the full article and the peer response from Douglas McDonald, Ph.D.; Sally J. Stevens, Ph.D.; and Shiela Strauss, Ph.D.

Commenting on the TASC article, Steven’s wrote: “(Heaps et al., 2009) calls attention to the overwhelming need for a systems approach to substance abuse among criminal offenders. Although individual research projects and treatment programs can address particular types of problems, only a systems approach can effectively address the larger picture.”

And Strauss noted: “A tripartite system consisting of criminal justice, screening and referral, and treatment services provides a sensible division of labor.”

We’re on to something at TASC.