Leaders in Transforming Health and Justice Recognized at TASC’s 2017 Leadership Awards Luncheon

(Chicago) – Nearly 300 guests attended TASC’s 2017 Leadership Awards Luncheon in Chicago on December 14 to honor Jessica Hulsey Nickel and Howard A. Peters III, respected champions of health and justice reforms.

Speakers shared inspiring tributes and echoed the importance of uplifting people who need help, and creating a society where fairness and access to health are the norms.

“I know firsthand the impact that substance abuse can have on individuals’ lives and the collateral damage that can occur among families when a loved one has the illness of addiction,” said TASC Board Vice Chair and Event Committee Chair John Zielinski in opening the event at the Westin Michigan Avenue. “I also know and believe in the importance of second chances. People can and do recover.”

TASC Board Chair Michelle Montgomery spoke of the importance of TASC’s work in diverting people who have with underlying substance use or mental health problems away from the justice system, and instead into treatment and other services in the community. She emphasize the need to address racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, where people of color are more likely to be arrested, to be offered a plea that includes prison time, and more likely to serve longer sentences than white Americans who commit the same offenses.

“This is devastating, and it is wrong,” said Montgomery. “We know that once an individual comes into contact with the justice system, it becomes exponentially harder to recover.

“Incarceration affects not just the individual—it severely disrupts whole families through multiple generations, devastating entire communities. As I speak, we are seeing this both in Illinois and across the nation. That is why I believe so strongly in TASC’s work in disrupting these cycles.”

Howard Peters Accepts TASC’s 2017 Justice Leadership Award

With a mission of addressing these inequities, TASC presents its Justice Leadership Award each year to a leader who has demonstrated a commitment to creating fairer, more equitable systems of justice.

With a long career of service leadership, including as director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, and later as the first secretary of what became the Illinois Department of Human Services, Howard Peters, TASC’s 2017 Justice Leadership honoree, “has the perspective and vision of a leader who has worked on all sides of the issues we address, from criminal justice to human services to healthcare,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez in presenting the award.

It was under Peters’ leadership of IDOC in the early 1990s that TASC began to offer pre- and post-release case management services for individuals leaving certain state prisons in Illinois, noted Rodriguez. Later, as the head of DHS, he oversaw all state-administered human services, including substance use and mental health, employment programs, youth services, and other programs that address poverty.

“He understands the interconnection of all these issues, and how the solutions to problems need to be comprehensive and inclusive,” said Rodriguez, who served alongside Peters on the recent Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. “When he would speak, he would change the conversation. He would ask questions that would cause people to think differently and strategize in new ways… His steady voice, deep compassion, and consistent leadership are part of what shape the criminal justice reforms happening in Illinois today.”

In accepting TASC’s award, Peters gave special credit those who shaped his early years, and who instilled in him a sense of obligation to do good in the world.

“Whatever are our accomplishments, no matter how grand or modest, they aren’t ours alone,” he said, sharing stories of how he was influenced and inspired by his mother, his grandmother, an influential second grade teacher, an inspiring college mentor, and his wife of 50 years, Beverly Peters.

“We are obligated to serve, we are obligated to support good work,” he said. “And that is why I am proud today to be in this room with you—because you are engaged in important work, you are supporting work that will determine whether children across Illinois will survive… and how well they will survive, and whether we will have a society in which we can take pride.”

Jessica Nickel Accepts TASC’s 2017 Public Voice Leadership Award

Creating such a society is also the life’s work of Jessica Nickel, TASC’s 2017 Public Voice Award Honoree and founder of the national Addiction Policy Forum.

Nickel played a critical leadership role in shaping and advancing federal legislation to improve justice and support recovery, including the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, which supports a wide range of responses to addiction, including criminal justice diversion initiatives, and the Second Chance Act, which has transformed the landscape of reentry programs across the country since it was signed into law in 2008.

“I have known Jessica for more than a decade, and from the start, she impressed me with her sense of urgency, her deep commitment, and her unwavering belief that we can – and must – give hope and help to families that are dealing with addiction,” said Rodriguez.

In accepting the award, Nickel noted that the Second Chance Act, co-sponsored by Illinois Congressman Danny K. Davis and Ohio Congressman (now Senator) Rob Portman, came about with the intent to re-envision how people reenter the community after jail and prison. Through this work, Nickel was introduced to TASC leaders Rodriguez, then vice president of TASC; TASC Vice President of Community and Government Affairs George Williams; and Melody Heaps, then president (now retired) of TASC.

“I’m proud of that work, and grateful and proud of the cooperation with TASC,” said Nickel.

Modeling this collaborative model of engagement that propelled the ongoing success of the Second Chance Act, Nickel is dedicated to changing the way society responds to addiction.

“Let’s re-envision how we respond to addiction in this country,” said Nickel. “Instead of playing whack-a-mole with one drug against the other… or playing that sort of favorite child of which response we’re going to work on—treatment or prevention or recovery or criminal justice—let’s put our heads together and think of something different.”

With this commitment, Nickel has assembled leading experts who understand addiction as a public health issue, and, in a short time, has built a strong and growing coalition of families, advocates, policymakers, community leaders, and corporations who share in this commitment.

“Through her voice, her organizing ability, her passion, and her impressive, first-hand knowledge of how to make major policy changes happen, Jessica is helping communities across the country make strides against addiction and its consequences. She’s bringing forth practical solutions… to help families and communities that want to know what works and what they can do,” said Rodriguez.

Among the luncheon guests were three past TASC Leadership Award recipients: retired WGN News Anchor Robert Jordan (2013 Public Voice Leadership Award), Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (2011 Public Voice Leadership Award), and Heaps (2010 Justice Leadership Award), who founded TASC as an Illinois nonprofit organization in 1976.

Also recognized were TASC’s 2017 event sponsors: elite sponsor Alkermes; select sponsors: John Greene and William Blair; and friend of TASC sponsors Yes Lifecycle Marketing, Gateway, BMO Harris Bank, HAS, Janssen, Meridian Health, and Rosecrance; with thanks also to numerous advocate sponsors, community sponsors, and raffle prize donors.

2017 TASC Leadership Awards Luncheon — Back row (l. to r.): Sue Thau, Toni Preckwinkle, Jessica Nickel, Pam Rodriguez. Front row: Howard Peters IV, Howard Peters III, Beverly Peters. (Photo by Yakov’s Studio.)

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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.

Supporting Criminal Justice Reforms and Treatment Access: National Initiatives

(Chicago) – The majority of people who enter the justice system have a substance use or mental health condition, or both. In many cases, deflection and diversion to appropriate services can happen at the very front end of the system, even before arrest.

TASC and its Center for Health and Justice (CHJ) are active in a number of national initiatives to advance knowledge, policy, and practice to divert eligible participants away from the justice system and into appropriate services in the community.

Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act

Passed by Congress and signed into law in 2016, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) is groundbreaking legislation that, among its many provisions, supports justice diversion practices, medication-assisted treatment, and naloxone for first responders to help curb the opioid overdose epidemic. TASC played a leading role in the bill’s inclusion of the first-ever Congressional authorization of funding for pre-booking police deflection programs. TASC and CHJ are partnering with the Addiction Policy Forum to help advance these innovative practices.

MD Magazine Peer Exchange Video Series on Addiction and Treatment in the Justice System

TASC’s Jac Charlier and Phillip Barbour are featured in a 14-part video series entitled Medication-Assisted Treatment in Drug Abuse Cases: A Path to Success. The series is produced by MD Magazine, a portal that provides physicians with clinical news, information, and resources designed to help them provide better care to patients. In the series, Charlier, Barbour, and other experts discuss an array of issues around drug treatment and medication-assisted therapies in justice and reentry settings.

Data-Driven Justice Initiative

The Data-Driven Justice Initiative (DDJ) is a coalition of over 100 cities, counties, and states that have committed to employing data-driven strategies to divert individuals out of the justice system and into care, with a specific focus on the small percentage of people with substance use and/or mental health disorders who account for a disproportionate amount of health and justice resources. This groundbreaking effort is merging the fields of big data and criminal justice reform.

Working with the National Association of Counties, TASC is providing technical assistance to the State of Illinois and five small-to-medium counties outside of Illinois as they pursue their respective DDJ initiatives. TASC is helping these jurisdictions develop partnerships, identify core data sources, and plan for pilot programs to address local concerns.

Roll Call Videos for Law Enforcement

The Center for Health and Justice at TASC produced two videos to be used by local police departments during roll call to help law enforcement officers and leadership better understand the nature of addiction and improve community relations as a foundation for deflecting drug-involved individuals into treatment rather than arrest. This project was funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Following recent consulting work to help initiate Baltimore’s Stop, Triage, Educate, Engage, and Rehabilitate (STEER) program, Charlier recently was quoted in the Wall Street Journal regarding the value of law enforcement deflection initiatives. “The policing world, through deflection efforts, is understanding that access to treatment and follow-up to treatment is a legitimate approach to public safety,” he said.

Read more about TASC ‘s national work and other news here.

TASC’s Jac Charlier (far right) and Phillip Barbour (second from left) appear in MD Magazine Peer Exchange series.

TASC’s Jac Charlier (second from right) and Phillip Barbour
(second from left) in MD Magazine Peer Exchange series.

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

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

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

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

CARA’s key provisions include:

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

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

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