Peter Palanca Honored; TASC Executive Retiring After 40 Years of Service to the Field

(Chicago) – Numerous organizations and colleagues are honoring Peter Palanca as he retires as TASC’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. Following 40 years in the field of addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery, including 14 years with TASC, Palanca has garnered abounding tributes for his career of service.

A longtime board member and past board chair of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association (IADDA)—now the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health (IABH)—Palanca was honored at the association’s 50th anniversary gala dinner on September 7.

“Peter leads with love,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez during the IABH event. Recognizing Palanca for his passion for connecting with people—from clients to staff to colleagues to students to fellow commuters—wherever he goes, she said, “We thank you for all you have done for TASC, for the field, for the clients whose lives you’ve touched, and for all the people you have taught and mentored.”

“People’s lives change every single day because of the work we do,” said Palanca as he reflected on his years of service. “That’s the opportunity we have in this field—to change people’s lives.”

The IABH dinner was emceed by Robert Jordan, retired WGN news anchor, who was among Palanca’s friends, family members, and colleagues who filled the room at the Chicago Marriott Naperville. Speakers offered touching tributes and humorous roasts, including a special “car pool karaoke” video by IABH CEO Sara Howe and board members.

On September 20, the Illinois Association of Addiction Professionals held its annual awards luncheon at the Ukranian Cultural Center in Chicago, where IAAP President Jim Golding and association members also recognized Palanca for his profound and tireless commitment to addiction recovery.

On October 7, Vantage Clinical Consulting will honor Palanca at its Advocate for Recovery Awards dinner at the Grand Lux Café on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. This black-tie event will recognize the accomplishments and leadership of professionals, organizations, public figures, and community members in addressing mental health and substance use disorders.

At TASC, Palanca has led strategic planning, development, service enhancement, and diversification efforts since 2003, and most recently has guided the introduction of outpatient treatment to TASC’s array of services. Prior to joining TASC, Palanca established his career in the field of prevention, treatment, and recovery, serving as executive director and regional vice president with Hazelden Foundation in Chicago, executive director with Parkside Behavioral Health Services in Chicago, and deputy director of the Illinois Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. Additionally, he developed and led adolescent behavioral healthcare programs at South Suburban Council on Alcoholism, Ingalls Memorial Hospital, and Lutheran Center for Substance Abuse. He also began the Region II Operation Snowball, a youth and adult partnership that provides awareness and prevention of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use.

Co-chair of the National Association for Children of Addiction (NACoA) and board member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), Palanca also remains a senior lecturer and chairman of the advisory board of the Governors State University Addictions Studies and Behavioral Health Department.

Honoring Peter Palanca at IABH 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner: IABH CEO Sara Howe; Retired WGN News Anchor Robert Jordan; TASC Executive VP Peter Palanca; IABH Board Chair Dave Gomel.

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New Early Identification Opioid Screening Tool Available from Texas Christian University and the Center for Health and Justice at TASC

Quick Screen Helps Provide More Rapid Referral to Treatment

(Chicago) – A new self-report screening tool is available to assist justice and health professionals to quickly gather detailed information about opioid use, allowing for more rapid referral to treatment services when appropriate. It also collects important information about potential risk of opioid drug overdose.

Developed by researchers at the Institute of Behavioral Research (IBR) at Texas Christian University (TCU), along with the Center for Health and Justice at TASC (CHJ), the TCU Drug Screen 5 – Opioid Supplement can help determine earlier in the screening and referral process if there is an immediate need for services to address opioid use problems.

“Dr. Patrick Flynn [IBR Director] and I have worked closely with the Center for Health and Justice at TASC in developing the TCU Drug Screen 5 – Opioid Supplement,” said IBR Deputy Director Dr. Kevin Knight. “We look forward to seeing it used in the field as part of the greater effort to make sure that those in need of services for opioid use problems are identified accurately and linked to the most appropriate level of care.”

The 17-question screen is a freely available resource for addiction and criminal justice professionals , including treatment providers, case managers, pre-arrest diversion and deflection staff, pretrial service providers, probation and parole officers, and jail administrators. By asking questions such as the respondent’s frequency, purpose, and methods of opioid use, the screening tool offers information relevant to immediate need for treatment referral and service delivery.

Given the extent and urgency of the national opioid crisis, responses may help professionals determine earlier in the screening and referral process if individuals should be prioritized for immediate placement into treatment, and also signal if someone may benefit from having access to naloxone (NARCAN®; EVZIO®) in case of overdose.

“With so many professions now on the front lines of fighting the opioid epidemic, people are looking for tools to help them earlier and faster in their decision making,” said Jac Charlier, national director for justice initiatives at the Center for Health and Justice at TASC. “With the new Opioid Supplement, questions specific to opioids now appear in the screening tool, making it easier to identify people earlier who may be at high risk for opioid overdose.”

The tool is a supplement to the TCU Drug Screen 5, which is based on the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The TCU Drug Screen 5 screens for mild to severe substance use disorder, and is particularly useful when determining placement and level of care in treatment.

Questions regarding permission to use the TCU Drug Screen 5 – Opioid Supplement, as well as specific information about the form, should be directed to Dr. Kevin Knight, deputy director of the Institute of Behavioral Research at TCU, at ibr@tcu.edu.

The Center for Health and Justice at TASC (CHJ) is the national training partner for TCU’s Institute of Behavioral Research. For training on the opioid supplement and other TCU resources, contact Jac Charlier, national director for justice initiatives at CHJ.

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The Institute of Behavioral Research (IBR) at TCU is a national research center for evaluating and improving treatment strategies that target reductions in drug abuse, related mental health and social problems, as well as other significant public health risks.

TASC, Inc. (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) provides evidence-based services to reduce rearrest and facilitate recovery for people with substance use and mental health issues. Nationally and internationally, TASC’s Center for Health and Justice offers consultation, training, and public policy solutions that save money, support public safety, and improve community health.

 

TASC, Partners Launch Supportive Release Center by Cook County Jail

(Chicago) – In collaboration with the University of Chicago Health Lab, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, and Heartland Health Outreach, on July 26, 2017, Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) announced the launch of the Supportive Release Center (SRC), an innovative new program that provides short-term, critical services to people with high needs as they are released from the Cook County Jail.

SRC Ribbon Cutting

Supportive Release Center Ribbon Cutting, July 26, 2017. Left to right: Pamela F. Rodriguez, TASC; Dr. David Meltzer, University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy; Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart; Dr. Daniel Diermeier, University of Chicago; Ed Stellon, Heartland Health Outreach; Dr. Harold Pollack, University of Chicago Urban Labs.

The SRC offers a brief overnight stay and linkages to community-based services for individuals who are struggling with mental illness, substance use disorders, or homelessness.

The facility, owned and administered by TASC, is located just blocks away from the Cook County Jail. It offers a “softer landing” for vulnerable persons who are being released from the jail, with the goal of reducing re-arrests, future incarceration, adverse health outcomes, and future incidents of homelessness.

SRC Exterior

 

SRC Interior with Staff

At the Cook County Jail—the largest single site jail in the United States—staff estimate that at least 30 percent of the daily population is living with some form of mental illness. An April 2016 survey study conducted by the UChicago Health Lab found that over 70 percent of respondents being released from Cook County Jail indicated some form of mental illness, substance use disorder, or other acute need, including feeling unsafe leaving the jail or an immediate need for medical care. More than one in three of those leaving the jail with indications of mental illness and substance use disorders were re-arrested within just five months of release. With approximately 70,000 individuals passing through the jail each year, the need to better serve individuals as they transition out of the jail has become a pressing public health concern.

“We know that people released from jail often don’t have a safe place to go, especially if they are facing addiction, mental illness, or homelessness,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “The SRC represents a collective effort of partners in the nonprofit sector, academia, government—and supported by private donors—to create a better path to health and safety.”

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office provides assistance in assessing and recruiting people for the center as they are leaving the jail. Participation in the SRC is voluntary, and interested participants are transported to the SRC by TASC staff, where they receive light food, clothing, and access to showers. TASC staff at the SRC conduct needs assessments and facilitate linkages to services in the community, including substance use treatment, mental health services, supportive housing, job training programs, and legal aid resources.

Participants also have access to an advanced practice nurse (APN) on-site, to provide immediate medical care and any necessary prescription medications. For those individuals who are identified as being homeless, Heartland Alliance Health is offering longer-term, more intensive case management services. The University of Chicago Health Lab is evaluating the project.

SRC partners group

SRC partners gather to celebrate the center’s launch.

The SRC was the winner of the Health Lab’s 2015 Innovation Challenge, which sought to identify and evaluate the most promising solutions to pressing challenges in public health.

Along with the University of Chicago Health Lab, numerous foundations and donors have contributed to the development of the SRC, including: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, The Chicago Community Trust, Crown Family Philanthropies, Michael Reese Health Trust, Margot and Thomas Pritzker Family Foundation, Reynolds Family Foundation, The Siragusa Family Foundation, and SixDegrees.org.

TASC Releases Survey of Prosecutorial Diversion in Illinois, Offering Recommendations to Guide Expansion and Improvement

(Chicago) – A new survey of Illinois state’s attorneys illustrates the scope and variety of prosecutorial diversion initiatives operating in jurisdictions across the state.

The intent of such programs often is to redirect individuals away from the criminal justice system and into community-based services, thereby preventing the unnecessary costs and harmful consequences—to the justice system, to communities, and to individuals and families—of repeated arrests, convictions, and incarcerations.

The report, No Entry: A Survey of Prosecutorial Diversion in Illinois, was produced by the Center for Health and Justice at TASC. It describes 54 programs operating in 37 Illinois counties, based on information submitted by prosecutors on diversion programs and options offered in their jurisdictions. The survey collected information on program authorization, oversight, target populations, goals, structure, services, outcomes, and evaluation.

“The survey highlights the work of state’s attorneys to meet local needs, and the needs of people coming through their systems, while also highlighting areas for improvement and growth,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez.

“The current criminal justice system is clearly too expensive, and is proving to be an ineffective way to handle many offenders. In an effort to achieve an efficient and effective model, we must embrace initiatives that not only hold offenders accountable, but also appropriately impact their lives,” said Joseph Bruscato, Winnebago County state’s attorney and chairman of the Board of Governors for the Illinois State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor’s Office. “Alternative justice programs can substantially reduce the likelihood that an individual will repeat their criminal behavior, and gives them the opportunity to be restored to useful citizenship.”

Joseph McMahon, Kane County state’s attorney and member of the same Board of Governors, notes support among criminal justice partners for programs like these. “Diversion programs receive widespread support in Kane County’s criminal courtrooms—from our office, from judges, and from defense attorneys—because they effectively address issues with people who need an alternative approach. I support and advocate for diversion programs and alternative courts because they hold people accountable yet provide an opportunity to move forward, they benefit the community, and they reduce long-term costs. They are the right thing to do.”

Preventing the Collateral Consequences of Convictions

With criminal justice reform efforts underway in jurisdictions across the country, diversion programs across the front end of the criminal justice system continuum not only help stem the vast numbers of people flowing into courts and correctional systems, but also may forestall the long-term collateral consequences of a conviction.

With that understanding, and to be clear and consistent about what type of programs were included in the survey, the project adopted a definition of “diversion” that included only those programs and practices that divert individuals in a way that affords the opportunity to avoid a criminal conviction on public record.

“Policies and practices that divert people from arrest and detention are critically important,” said TASC Policy Director Laura Brookes. “The survey acknowledges that a criminal conviction—for either a misdemeanor or felony—sets off all kinds of collateral consequences that often severely hamper an individual’s ability to become and remain a productive member of the community.”

By facilitating early intervention, prosecutors’ diversion policies, practices, and programs can reduce court caseloads, prevent criminal records, and encourage quicker access to services that put men and women on the path to health, stability, and community participation.

Observations and Recommendations

In addition to highlighting program goals and collaboration, several observations emerged from the survey analysis.

For example, most programs responding to the survey limited participation eligibility based on the defendant’s charge or criminal history, and many were limited to first-time offenses. Most featured connections to clinical services, such as substance use and mental health interventions, with many accessing other supportive services as well.

A number of respondents reported either that evidence-based practices were not used or that they were not sure if they were used. In terms of program funding, a majority of programs surveyed relied on local budgets and/or participant fees. Additionally, responses indicated that while many programs reported outcomes, in most cases they did not rise to a statistical measure that can be analyzed or compared on level footing with other programs.

The report offers eight recommendations intended to guide criminal justice system practitioners and other stakeholders in the development, implementation, expansion, replication, and improvement of diversion programs. The recommendations are also intended to inform and motivate discussions and decisions made by policymakers and other decision-makers, as diversion programs continue to proliferate.

  1. Incorporate research findings and evidence-based practices into diversion programs.
  2. Apply resources to individuals and programs with potential to achieve the greatest impact.
  3. Incorporate community-based behavioral health and social services into diversion programs, as appropriate, especially substance use and mental health services.
  4. Leverage all available resources for community-based behavioral health and social services, and strongly advocate to protect and expand them.
  5. Adopt standardized program goals, outcome and performance measures, and terminology.
  6. Adopt standardized data collection and analysis models and mechanisms.
  7. Develop a web-based, searchable directory of diversion programs in Illinois.
  8. Develop opportunities for cross-system education, training, and technical assistance available to jurisdictions for the purpose of establishing, expanding, or improving prosecutorial diversion programs.

For further information on front-end diversion initiatives, please visit the Center for Health and Justice at TASC.

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

Governor Rauner Signs Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Legislation at TASC

(Chicago) – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, accompanied by bill co-sponsors State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13) and State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-92), signed bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation at TASC on March 10.

SB2872, also known as the Neighborhood Safety Act, increases trauma recovery support services for crime victims, strengthens judicial discretion to mandate individuals to probation and addiction treatment services in the community instead of prison, and expands opportunities for rehabilitative programming within Illinois prisons.

Watch a video of the March 10 bill signing here, including remarks from Governor Rauner; Senator Raoul; Representative Gordon-Booth; John Maki, executive director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority; Lisa D. Daniels, founder of the Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Justice; and Lenore Anderson, president of the Alliance for Safety and Justice.

The legislation advances recommendations of the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform in its final report, including giving further discretion to judges regarding whether certain offenses may be appropriate for probation.

“By increasing access to rehabilitation services and alternatives to incarceration, this bill helps to support families, build communities, and reduce the number of people in prison and associated costs,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez, a member of the Governor’s commission, which seeks to reduce Illinois’ prison population by 25 percent by 2025.

“TASC strongly supports these legislative reforms,” said Rodriguez. “We applaud the Governor, Senator Raoul, Representative Gordon-Booth, all the bill co-sponsors, and our community partners for their leadership in bringing about these important reforms.”

Governor Rauner signs SB2872 at TASC. Left to right: John Maki, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority; IL Senator Kwame Raoul; IL Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth; IL Governor Bruce Rauner; Lisa D. Daniels, Darren B. Easterling Center for Restorative Justice; Lenore Anderson, Alliance for Safety and Justice.

OP-ED: Revamping of Health Law Could Be Costly to Illinois

As Congress prepares to replace the Affordable Care Act, it is essential that the Medicaid expansion provision of the law be protected.

Any rollback of federal Medicaid coverage would be particularly harmful to Illinois, especially as our state grapples with budget deficits, an opioid epidemic, and an overburdened criminal justice system.

Under the ACA, Illinois was among the majority of states that expanded Medicaid, which provides federally-funded health insurance for low-income people. In a January letter to congressional leaders, the Rauner administration expressed concern about potential changes to Medicaid, pointing out that 3.2 million Illinoisans—almost one-quarter of the state’s population—are enrolled in coverage. 

Reducing Medicaid coverage would deprive Illinois of millions of dollars per year in federal support. As an example, in behavioral health services alone, the state would have to replace an estimated $80 million per year in federal Medicaid resources to pay for community-based substance use and mental health services that would support alternatives to incarceration and reentry initiatives.

Second, such changes would fly in the face of efforts to address the opioid epidemic that is devastating Illinois communities. Nineteen Illinois sheriffs, prosecutors, and police chiefs recently signed a letter to Congress urging action against any policy changes that would make it even harder for low-income individuals to access addiction and/or mental health treatment. Lack of treatment access impairs law enforcement’s ability to prevent overdose deaths and to make our communities safer.  

Finally, rolling back Medicaid coverage would hamstring Illinois’ successful bipartisan progress toward reforming the criminal justice system. Coverage for addiction and mental health services is essential to the state’s strategy for preventing crime, reducing recidivism, and avoiding the $41,000 per person annual average cost of incarceration for those whose non-violent offenses stem from untreated health conditions.

It is well recognized that there are aspects of the Affordable Care Act that must be overhauled. However, as changes are made, and to expound on what the Governor’s administration and criminal justice experts have written, it would be foolhardy and counter-productive if those changes include an attack on Medicaid coverage. Illinois can ill afford such a loss.

Pamela F. Rodriguez, President & CEO of TASC

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.