2017 TASC Leadership Award Honorees Announced

(Chicago) – Howard A. Peters III and Jessica Hulsey Nickel, longtime advocates in the fields of criminal justice and healthcare policy, will accept TASC’s 2017 Leadership Awards at the agency’s annual luncheon in Chicago on December 14.

Howard A. Peters III, 2017 TASC Justice Leadership Award Honoree

TASC will present its Justice Leadership Award to Peters, who currently serves as vice chair of the Medicaid Advisory Committee under the Illinois Health and Human Services Transformation initiative. In his 40 years of public service, Peters has led the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Department of Human Services, and was appointed in 2015 by Governor Rauner to the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform.

“For many the years, in settings where policy decisions are being made about justice reforms and healthcare access, Howard Peters has been an experienced and respected voice in the room,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “He is a strong advocate for under-served communities and populations. Through his broad experience in both corrections and healthcare, he helps build consensus to improve policies and access to care.”

Nickel, who founded and leads the national Addiction Policy Forum, will receive TASC’s Public Voice Leadership Award. Nickel has been instrumental in shaping and advancing federal legislation to improve justice and support recovery, including the landmark Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, which fights the opioid epidemic and supports front-end criminal justice diversion among its key provisions, and the groundbreaking Second Chance Act, which has seeded more than 700 local reentry initiatives across the country.

Jessica Nickel, 2017 TASC Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree

“Jessica Nickel is helping communities across the country make strides against addiction and its consequences,” said Rodriguez. “Through federal legislative initiatives and through the Addiction Policy Forum, she’s bringing forth practical solutions to help families and communities that want to know what works and what they can do.”

Rodriguez added, “We are thrilled to present our 2017 leadership awards to both Howard and Jessica.They each are thoughtful, committed leaders who inspire others.”

The 2017 TASC Leadership Awards Luncheon will take place at the Westin Michigan Avenue Chicago on Thursday, December 14 from 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM. Registration is requested by November 28. For sponsorship opportunities and additional information, please click here.


Live4Lali, TASC Partner to Offer Weekly Recovery Nights in Chicago

(Chicago) – Motivated by the devastating impacts of the growing addiction and overdose epidemic, Live4Lali will provide recovery education, support, and harm-reduction services in Chicago every Wednesday night beginning September 27. Live4Lali has teamed up with TASC to offer these weekly services at TASC’s office at 700 S. Clinton Street.

Last year, a total of 1,091 people in Cook County died, at least in part because of an opioid-related overdose, a 68 percent leap from 649 in 2015. According to Roosevelt University’s Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, the Chicago metropolitan area ranks highest for both emergency department mentions for heroin and number of individuals who were arrested and tested positive for heroin.

“Stigma surrounding substance use and overdose has fueled this epidemic. Stigma keeps people who struggle with substance use disorders and their families ashamed, silenced, and unsafe. By offering interventions such as relevant and accurate information, coping skills, the overdose antidote, naloxone, and linkages to care, we have seen families and communities heal and thrive,” said Live4Lali Cofounder and Executive Director Chelsea Laliberte.

Live4Lali’s Recovery Night Wednesdays will include the following free programming to support individuals, friends, and family members affected by addiction:

  • 6:00–7:15 PM – SMART Recovery® (Self-Management And Recovery Training), an evidence-based peer-to-peer support group based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for individuals seeking or in recovery from addictive behaviors
  • 7:15–7:45 PM – Overdose prevention and response trainings via the use of Narcan® (naloxone), an antidote to opioid overdose, which will be provided free of charge as part of the training
  • 7:45–9:00 PM – SMART Recovery Friends & Family, an evidence-based peer-to-peer support group based on the SMART Recovery modality and designed specifically for family and friends of people struggling with addictive behaviors

“We welcome Live4Lali’s recovery support and education services at our Clinton Street location,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “We connect our clients to a wide range of evidence-based recovery services, and the Recovery Night Wednesdays will offer valuable, added options for our clients, as well as for friends and family members deeply affected by addiction.”

For information about recovery nights, visit Live4Lali.org/Chicago-chapter, call 844.LV4.LALI x810, or email Chicago@live4lali.org.

About Live4Lali

Buffalo Grove, Illinois resident Alex “Lali” Laliberte died of a polysubstance overdose in 2008. His sister Chelsea and their parents, Jody Daitchman and Gary Laliberte, established Live4Lali (501c3) so that other families might not suffer the devastation of their loss. Live4Lali’s mission is to prevent and raise awareness of substance use among individuals, families, and communities, and minimize the overall health, legal and social harms associated with substance use. Live4Lali has helped pass groundbreaking state and federal legislation and offers direct, on-the-ground education, support and harm reduction services to those directly impacted by addiction or overdose. Visit Live4Lali at Live4Lali.org, on its social media platforms, or for more information call 844.LV4.LALI.

About TASC, Inc. (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities)

TASC, Inc. works in partnership with justice systems, child welfare programs, and community-based organizations to build connections to recovery for people with substance use and mental health conditions. By providing case management, outpatient treatment, and other direct services for approximately 20,000 Illinoisans annually, as well as consultation and training services nationally, TASC helps to increase health, reduce recidivism, and support recovery.


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.

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.


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, 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).

IACP and TASC Announce National Initiative to Combat the U.S. Opioid Epidemic and Mainstream Pre-Arrest Diversion Programs

(Chicago)  – The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) have come together to promote an initiative to create robust alternative-to-arrest diversion programs for state, county, and local law enforcement agencies across the United States, in line with the White House announcement responding to the national opioid emergency.

The IACP/TASC 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 in need access treatment as rapidly as possible. This collaboration is particularly timely given the announced national opioid epidemic emergency. For example, “Naloxone Plus” models are specially designed for law enforcement and treatment partnerships to prevent future overdose deaths.

“At this critical time for our communities, law enforcement efforts to connect people with drug treatment could not have greater urgency,” said IACP President Donald De Lucca, chief of the Doral, Florida, Police Department. “Law enforcement officers, working side-by-side with treatment providers and community, will together help form the solution.”

To launch this effort, IACP and TASC will work through the Police, Treatment, and Community (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 reduce crime in the United States.

The IACP and TASC initiative will: 1) identify the many variations on the concept of diversion across the United States, pinpointing programs with the most promising and measurable outcomes; 2) launch a significant nationwide pilot implementation approach using the identified promising models; 3) leverage the resources of the IACP Center for Police Research and Policy at the University of Cincinnati to measure and evaluate the results of the pilot implementation to ensure an evidenced-based approach; and 4) launch one of the largest pre-arrest diversion initiatives in the United States, seeking a sea change in policing (and justice) practices.

While diversion to treatment is not a new concept, this initiative adds a critical element that’s been missing: a dynamic and sustainable partnership that brings together TASC’s expertise in evidence-based responses to substance use and mental health disorders, along with IACP’s expansive and knowledgeable law enforcement network.

“We know from four decades of research and experience that formal connections to treatment can improve access and outcomes,” said Pam Rodriguez, president and CEO of TASC. “Across the U.S., prisoner reentry programs, court intervention programs, and prosecutorial diversion programs have proven successful for decades. Their lessons can be applied even earlier in the justice system—ideally before people even enter it.”

“This initiative can yield value across the U.S., including safer communities, healthier families, and officers returning home safely from duty,” said De Lucca.


About TASC

TASC, Inc. has a 40-year history of bridging justice systems and community-based substance use treatment programs. Offering direct services to more than 20,000 people annually in Illinois, TASC works in partnership with law enforcement, courts, prisons, child welfare programs, and community-based service providers to implement evidence-based services that increase health and reduce recidivism.

About the IACP

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) is a professional association for law enforcement worldwide. For more than 120 years, the IACP has been launching internationally acclaimed programs, speaking on behalf of law enforcement, conducting groundbreaking research, and providing exemplary programs and services to members across the globe.

Today, the IACP continues to be recognized as a leader in these areas. By maximizing the collective efforts of the membership, IACP actively supports law enforcement through advocacy, outreach, education, and programs. Through ongoing strategic partnerships across the public safety spectrum, the IACP provides members with resources and support in all aspects of law enforcement policy and operations. These tools help members perform their jobs effectively, efficiently, and safely while also educating the public on the role of law enforcement to help build sustainable community relations.

About PTAC

 The Police, Treatment and Community Collaborative (PTAC Collaborative) was launched in April 2017 with a mission to strategically widen community behavioral health and social service options available through law enforcement diversion. The purpose of the PTAC Collaborative is to provide national vision, leadership, voice, and action to reframe the relationship between law enforcement, treatment, and community. PTAC promotes the development and dissemination of a wide variety of pre-arrest diversion efforts, not limited to any single approach. PTAC seeks to avoid issues of racial disparity in practice as pre-arrest diversion initiatives grow across the country. We welcome the participation of representatives from law enforcement and other criminal justice entities, behavioral health, research, community, advocacy and related organizations in any of the strategic areas.

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.