Leading the Movement Toward Diversion as a First Response: Building Connections to Treatment at the Front End of the Justice System

Below is an excerpt from TASC’s semi-annual News & Views. The current issue includes articles on pre-arrest, prosecutorial, and jail release interventions for people who have substance use and mental health conditions.

(Chicago) — A recent criminal justice trend is gaining traction. It has potential not only to help curb the devastation that the opioid epidemic is causing in communities across the nation, but also to bring law enforcement, treatment providers, and communities together to solve common challenges that substance use and mental health disorders pose.

It’s known as pre-arrest diversion. Other terms include front-end diversion, deflection, and pre-booking diversion. Regardless of terminology, the goal is the same: to divert eligible individuals with substance use and mental health disorders to treatment before logging an arrest.

“We know from decades of research and experience that formal connections to treatment can improve access and outcomes,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. Lessons learned from prosecutorial diversion programs, court intervention programs, and reentry programs can, and should, be applied even earlier in the justice system.”

The first point of entry into the justice system—and thus the earliest opportunity for justice diversion—is law enforcement.

“For most people who are manifesting substance use and mental health disorders, there are better alternatives than arrest,” said Rodriguez. “Through our work with partners across the country, we hope to make it easier for law enforcement officers to connect people to treatment.”

Building Police-Treatment-Community Partnerships

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2000 to 2015, nearly half a million people died from a drug overdose, and since then, mortality rates have climbed precipitously, with a record 64,000 people having lost their lives to overdose in 2016.

Often at the front line of these tragedies, local law enforcement agencies are seeking new ways to better serve and protect communities confronting the consequences of substance use disorders, especially as police frequently interact with individuals affected by addiction and/or overdose. Pre-booking or pre-arrest diversion strategies can help reduce drug use, promote public safety, and save lives.

In March, the Center for Health and Justice at TASC partnered with the Civil Citation Network to convene the first-ever national summit focused on pre-arrest diversion. Criminal justice, behavioral health, and public policy experts from across the country gathered at the headquarters of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) in Alexandria, Virginia, for two days of information sharing and planning.

From this meeting emerged the Police, Treatment and Community Collaborative (“PTAC Collaborative”), the first national effort to build a multi-disciplinary approach that ensures law enforcement, treatment professionals, and community members collaborate as equal partners to widen community behavioral health and social service options available through law enforcement diversion.

Working through the PTAC Collaborative, IACP and TASC have come together to promote alternative-to-arrest diversion programs for state, county, and local law enforcement agencies across the United States. This collaboration seeks to greatly improve the means, ease, and speed with which law enforcement can partner with substance use and mental health treatment providers so that police can help people access treatment.

Read more about TASC’s partnership with IACP and the PTAC Collaborative to advance pre-arrest diversion.

Save the date for the inaugural PTAC Collaborative conference March 4-7, 2018 in Ponte Vedra, Florida.

Browse additional stories in the current issue of TASC News & Views, including frameworks for pre-arrest diversion (p. 5), prosecutorial diversion in Illinois (p. 6), and the new Supportive Release Center in Cook County, Illinois, where TASC and partners provide intervention and service linkages at the critical point of release from jail (p. 7).

Also in this issue:

Paths to Addiction Treatment Fraught With Barriers; Misinformed Expectations Can Set Up Disappointment

(Chicago) – For people in need of addiction treatment, and for families struggling to find help for a loved one, the barriers can be overwhelming.

Desperation can lead families to fall prey to unsavory treatment marketing practices, reported Alison Knopf in the June 13 edition of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly. The issue’s lead article describes how a Florida treatment center targets Illinois patients who have out-of-network insurance, which has no contract-based cost limitations.

TASC’s Peter Palanca was one of the experts quoted:

“These are predatory marketing tactics,” said Peter Palanca, executive vice president and chief operating officer of TASC, based in Chicago. “I don’t think there’s any question about that,” he told ADAW. “To prey on families who are scared to death, grasping at straws, terrified about their son or daughter dying” is wrong, he said.

Knopf also spoke with Illinois experts Kathie Kane-Willis, director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University; Jud DeLoss, external counsel for the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, and Phil Eaton, president and CEO of Rosecrance, all of whom expressed concern over certain business models and tactics that take advantage of uninformed consumers. The treatment center in Florida, for example, employs a full-time Midwest outreach coordinator, making Illinois the center’s main referral source.

“You shouldn’t have to get on a plane to get treatment,” advised TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “Recovery doesn’t happen magically in a program far away from home. It’s a long process involving changes in physiology, changes in behavior, changes in relationships, and changes in many other aspects of a person’s life. Ultimately, it happens day by day, in the community where people live and work and learn.”

Common barriers to entering treatment can be external influences, such as lack of access, funding, or time, or internal factors, such as stigma, depression, and personal beliefs. These barriers may be compounded by variables such as insurance coverage, geography, race and ethnicity, genderage, and other factors.

Misinformed expectations about treatment also contribute to people not getting to into treatment, or not getting the treatment that works for them, said Rodriguez.

The biggest misconception about treatment is that it’s going to magically fix you,” she said. “People often have wrong expectations about what’s going to happen as a result of going to treatment. You don’t go to treatment to get fixed. You go to treatment to learn entirely new ways to live your life. And that can be scary and difficult.

“You need to find treatment that feels right for you,” she added. “If your gut says it isn’t right, it probably isn’t. Just as with any other health issue, you might go through a few doctors before you find one that works for you. It’s the same with treatment.”

The Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse publishes a county-by-county list of substance use disorder treatment programs. Nationwide, call or visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP.

TASC to Host 5th Annual Rockford “Recovery Rally on the Rock”

(Rockford, IL) – Rockford’s 5th Annual Recovery Rally on the Rock will take place Saturday, September 14, 2013.

This popular community event, which is scheduled from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on the banks of the Rock River at the Madison Street Trolley Station, celebrates recovery from alcohol and drug addiction while raising awareness of local resources to prevent and treat substance use and mental health conditions, according to an event organizer, Bridget Kiely, administrator of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, Inc. services in northern Illinois

Co-sponsored by TASC, Recovery Rally on the Rock is part of Recovery Month, a national observance led by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The observance raises awareness of mental and substance use disorders, celebrates individuals in long-term recovery, and acknowledges the work of prevention, treatment, and recovery support services.

“It is important that the momentum we’ve established at these events is carried over to tomorrow, and the next day, week, and year,” said Kiely. “We all have the potential to make a difference. The reality is that behavioral health is essential to health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover.”

The 2013 rally will take place at the Trolley State near the Riverview Icehouse. It is a free, family-friendly event that will include music and inspiring words from local community members.  A wide range of community resources also will be offered.

In addition to TASC, sponsors of the 5th Annual Recovery Rally on the Rock include Culver’s, the Rockford Park District, Rosecrance, Remedies, and Heartland Community Church’s Celebrate Recovery Program.

For more information about TASC or the Recovery Rally, contact Kate Craig at 815-965-1106 or email kcraig@tasc.org.

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

Coming to Chicago in July: 4th National Conference on Women, Addiction and Recovery


The 2010 National Conference on Women, Addiction and Recovery: Thriving in Changing Times will take place at the Chicago Marriott Downtown/Magnificent Mile from July 26‐28, 2010.

Sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in partnership this year with TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities), this bi-annual conference will feature opportunities to interact with presenters and with other participants one-on-one, in small group discussions, and in personalized technical assistance sessions.

Plus, there will be hands-on training available on technology tools such as blogging, Facebook, and electronic health records.

Some of our nationally recognized speakers include:

Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., a pioneer in mind/body medicine and the New York Times bestselling author of 14 books, including. It’s Not the End of the World: Developing Resilience in Times of Change.

Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the image of women in advertising and her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising.

Lisa M. Najavits, Ph.D., ABPP, author of Seeking Safety: A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse (2002) and A Woman’s Addiction Workbook (2002), and over 130 professional publications.

Francine Ward, J.D., author, attorney, and success coach whose personal story of resilience, endurance, and faith demonstrates that success is not just about having confidence or having the right pedigree; it’s about making right choices and being willing to overcome obstacles.

For the speakers, the opportunities to interact with others, and the location, this is a conference not to miss!  

The conference and hotel rooms are filling up quickly.   Register today!

Children & Parents Lose TASC Services; Dozens of TASC Staff Furloughed and Laid Off; Still No State Budget Resolution in Sight for Quinn, Cullerton, Madigan, Cross, Radogno

(Chicago) — Multiple news reports have implied that June 30 is the deadline for Governor Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, House Minority Leader Tom Cross and the remainder of the General Assembly to straighten out the state’s budget.

In fact, the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS), Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and Department of Corrections (DOC) sent out notification last week of the massive budget cuts to human services, and many agencies, including TASC, already have been forced to slash workforces and terminate services to clients.

For the first time in TASC’s 33-year history, staff furlough notices went out today. Some 140 staff across Illinois will be without work and without pay for two weeks beginning July 1, and an additional 51 are being laid off.

Cuts Tragic to Parents and Children

Hardest hit at TASC so far have been the agency’s child welfare services, which are eliminated. Nearly 500 parents and youth under the care and supervision of the DCFS-funded Recovery Coach and System of Care programs are being notified this week that they will no longer receive critical housing stabilization and family reunification services.

All 51 TASC child welfare program staff in Cook County and in Southern Illinois are jobless as of July 1. Among them are single parents, individuals with health issues, grandparents who are caretakers of young children, and many others for whom the loss of employment creates untold hardship – not to mention the hardship confronting clients for whom TASC’s services are life-changing. (Without TASC, parents like Janice and Kim will likely lose permanent custody of their children.)

The Recovery Coach program is a highly successful program of intensive outreach to parents who have lost custody of their children due to the parent’s addiction. TASC Recovery Coaches work very closely with parents to ensure that they receive necessary treatment services, counseling, and skills training to become healthy and responsible parents.

Without TASC’s intensive outreach, clinical services, and advocacy, most are likely to lose their children for good. Their children will remain in foster care – or receive little to no care at all – at a greater financial cost to the state and a catastrophic human toll to children and their families.

In-depth research on the Recovery Coach program shows that parents in the program are more likely than others involved in DCFS to enter substance abuse treatment, complete treatment, and achieve family reunification.

The System of Care program works with young children and teenagers who have had particularly difficult placements in foster care due to the youth’s mental health issues, past physical and sexual abuse, and other circumstances that make life especially challenging for them and their foster parents. In this program, TASC provides an array of outreach and clinical services to ensure that young people are stabilized in safe and permanent living situations rather than being bounced from foster home to foster home or group homes.

Both programs are gone. It will take intervention and action at the highest levels of Illinois government for services to return.

Program Cuts Cost the State Millions in Federal Aid

Marc Smith, Child Welfare Advocate

Marc Smith, Child Welfare Advocate

What is most difficult to understand about these budget cuts, for many, is that they are inexplicable from both a human standpoint and a financial standpoint. “TASC’s Recovery Coach program has proven to be the most successful family reunification program in Illinois,” according to Marc Smith, who oversees TASC’s child welfare services. “And most bewildering is that the program does not cost the state a penny. Any money that the state puts into it comes back directly from the federal government. It is free to the state.”

In fact, the program saved the state more than $5 million in its first five years, and has remained a cost saver.

“What’s most heartbreaking is to see parents who are on their way to recovery, and on their way to getting their kids back, and they’re being cut off so abruptly” says Mr. Smith. “Nobody cares for them the way our Recovery Coaches care for them. They (the parents) can’t believe that the only people who’ve ever given them hope will be leaving their lives in six days.”

Says TASC Executive Vice President Pam Rodriguez, “Many have suggested that the Governor’s budget is a ploy, a tactic to raise alarm. This is no false alarm — it is real. Real people are being furloughed or laid off. Real clients will not get services and be in jail or prison or face termination of parental rights. We are not playing a game — we are fighting to provide services, to save lives.” 

Though severe damage to children and families is already being inflicted, these catastrophic cuts can be reversed. The General Assembly has not completed its work on the FY10 budget.

Look up your Illinois state legislators here.

IL Budget Cuts Wipe Out TASC Child Welfare Services; Quinn, Cullerton, Madigan, Radogno, Cross Meet; Special Session To Begin 6/23

(Chicago, IL)Fifty-percent budget cuts to human services across Illinois are devastating. To substance abuse treatment and case management programs, a 50-percent cut would not be remotely acceptable — but it would be an improvement. 

Most substance abuse treatment agencies funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Alcoholism and Substance (DHS/DASA) received letters this week announcing 72-76 percent cuts to their programs. TASC was among these.

The doomsday budget cuts are set to take effect July 1. With no assurance that the budget will be resolved soon, social service agencies are making plans for program closures and staff furloughs or layoffs.

Cuts Fly in Face of TASC’s Cost-Saving Child Welfare Programs 

Child welfare programs also are being slashed, including TASC’s child welfare and family services.

TASC’s Recovery Coach program for parents, offered under the leadership of the llinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), has been enormously successful, saving the state more than $5 million over a 5-year period. However, this program too faces elimination under the FY10 state budget as it stands.

The Recovery Coach program works with men and women who have lost custody of their children due to the parent’s addiction. Through the program, parents receive treatment, intensive case management, parenting skills training, and other services that will allow for family reunification. Without this program and without treatment, parents like Kim and Janice are likely to permanently lose custody of their children. 

Special Legislative Session Will Begin Tuesday, June 23

Once again on Wednesday, Governor Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, and House Minority Leader Tom Cross met.  Following the meeting, Senator Cullerton announced that a special legislative session will begin next Tuesday.

View legislative leaders’ post-meeting comments on the Capitol Fax blog.

It is long past time for the state budget to be settled. We call on the Governor and legislative leaders to restore funding to these vital, cost-saving services immediately.