Supporting International Efforts to Prevent Overdose and Treat Substance Use Disorders

(Chicago) – TASC’s work in Illinois is helping to inform international strategies to save lives and divert people with substance use disorders away from the justice system and into community-based treatment.

On August 20, TASC hosted visiting dignitaries from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) for discussions on criminal justice responses to the opioid crisis and alternatives to incarceration, based on the recognition that international supply reduction strategies can inform and support, and be supported by, local efforts across the country.

INL helps countries across the globe strengthen their criminal justice systems in order to reduce the entry of illegal drugs and crime in the U.S.

INL Deputy Assistant Secretary James A. Walsh and Michele Greenstein, acting director of INL’s Office of Criminal Justice and Assistance Partnership (CAP), were welcomed by TASC President Pam Rodriguez, who facilitated a roundtable discussion with local criminal justice leaders, including Judge LeRoy Martin, presiding judge of the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli, Cook County Circuit Judge Charles P. Burns, Judge Lawrence Fox, director of specialty courts for Cook County, and Chief Eric Guenther of the Mundelein Police Department. Leaders presented a continuum of criminal justice diversion strategies and alternatives to incarceration that exist in Cook and Lake counties for people who have substance use disorders.

Following the roundtable discussion, Walsh and Greenstein visited TASC’s Supportive Release Center, meeting with TASC staff as well as Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, whose website offers information on array of resources on overdose prevention and recovery.

“We are grateful and proud to be able to show our collective work in Illinois, knowing that lessons learned here can benefit other nations across the globe,” said Rodriguez. “We also recognize that much work lies ahead in continuing to reduce the numbers of people entering the justice system, and in increasing treatment and recovery options for people and communities affected by substance use disorders.”

Today, communities across the globe are recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day, observed annually on August 31 to raise awareness around overdose prevention, reduce the stigma of a drug-related death, and acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends who have lost loved ones to drug overdose.

INL dignitaries and Sheriff Dart at TASC Supportive Release Center, August 20, 2018. (l. to r.) Michele Greenstein, INL; Alicia Osborne, TASC; INL Deputy Assistant Secretary James Walsh; Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart; Dr. Jane Gubser, Cook County Dept. of Corrections; Joe Ryan, Cook County Sheriff’s Dept.; Robin Moore, TASC.

 

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Governor Rauner, Illinois Lawmakers Weigh in on New Pre-Arrest Diversion Legislation

(Chicago) — Illinois lawmakers weighed in on the significance of Senate Bill 3023, signed on Wednesday by Governor Bruce Rauner. The first state legislation to authorize a comprehensive array of pre-arrest diversion program approaches, it supports law enforcement officers in creating handoffs to community-based treatment when they see people who have overdosed or are showing other signs of substance use disorder.

“Our police officers want to help us solve the problem, not just punish people,” said Rauner. “This effort builds community and allows our law enforcement and peace officers a way to give people help instead of a criminal record.”

The legislation supports “deflection” of individuals with substance use problems away from the justice system and into addiction treatment services. Traditionally, law enforcement has been faced with two options: arrest or walk away. Deflection provides a third option: connecting people to treatment and/or other social supports.

Chief sponsors Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake), Senator Tim Bivins (R-Dixon) Representative Marcus C. Evans, Jr. (D-Chicago) and Representative Tom Demmer (R-Rochelle) spoke of its significance.

“We know the factors involved with treating mental health and substance abuse are multilayered and complex,” said Bush. “Early detection is key, as both issues can manifest into a lifetime of challenges if left untreated.”

“Substance abuse contributes to crime, hurts Illinois families and deteriorates communities,” said Evans. “Our Illinois law enforcement and human services leaders understand this reality, and I applaud their support of a solution in the form of SB 3023. I am happy to see this community- and family-improving idea become law.”

The bill originated based on the successes of the Safe Passage program in Dixon and A Way Out in Lake County, Illinois.

Demmer, whose district includes Dixon, lauded the role of the Safe Passage program as a model for the legislation. “Dixon has had great success with 215 people placed directly into treatment over incarceration,” he said. “This has resulted in a 39 percent reduction in arrests for drug crimes, as well as properly deflecting people to get the medically driven substance abuse help they need instead of making it difficult for them to get help because of a criminal record.”

“This new law focuses on preventive measures in dealing with the opioid crisis and other substance abuse issues,” said Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon). “It partners law enforcement agencies with licensed substance abuse service providers to treat individuals with substance abuse problems before they are arrested. Getting these individuals help before they enter the jail system will make it easier for them to resume their daily routines later without a criminal record, and will reduce the burden on local jail and court systems.”

“Deflection programs provide police officers with another option when dealing with someone they believe may have opioid or other substance abuse problems,” said Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods), who also sponsored the bill. “Continuously arresting and locking up such troubled individuals rarely fixes their underlying issue. It is my hope that with these deflection programs, we can get people the treatment and help they need to get better.”

Advancing Pre-Arrest Diversion in Illinois and Nationally

Leaders of the Safe Passage and A Way Out initiatives — Dixon City Manager and former Police Chief Danny Langloss and Police Chief Eric Guenther of Mundelein in Lake County, respectively — worked with TASC to spearhead the legislation.

“Senate Bill 3023 is the first of its kind legislation and recognizes a paradigm shift in law enforcement’s approach to those who struggle with substance use,” said Guenther. “I am very proud to have been a part of creating this legislation.”

“This is a hopeful day for Illinois law enforcement and those suffering from substance use disorder,” said Langloss. “The national opioid epidemic continues to impact every community. More than 72,000 Americans lost their lives last year to drug overdose. Behind every death there is a family. With this bill, the police now have new programs at their disposal that save lives and make our communities safer.

“We saw the successes of Chiefs Guenther and Langloss as meaningful and timely, and we wanted to help bring these opportunities for treatment to residents across the state,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “From our work in the justice system, from police to parole and all points between, we’ve seen that public policy can serve as a launching pad for significant progress. This legislation is an example of that.”

As police departments across the country began developing programs in response to the opioid crisis at an increasing pace, TASC’s Center for Health and Justice identified five overarching pathways by which law enforcement was diverting or “deflecting” people away from arrest and into treatment, housing, and social supports in the community. Building from this work, Jac Charlier, national director for justice initiatives at TASC, co-founded the Police, Treatment, and Community Collaborative (PTACC), a national alliance of practitioners in law enforcement, behavioral health, community, advocacy, research, and public policy working to strategically widen  community behavioral health and social service options available through law enforcement diversion.

PTACC has illustrated these five pathways by which police departments are making connections to community-based treatment and social services; law enforcement and community partners can choose any or all of these pathways based on local needs and resources.

“Based on TASC’s and PTACC’s work identifying, communicating, and shaping deflection concepts and strategies nationally, it’s gratifying to see my home state of Illinois take the lead in shaping this public policy,” said Charlier. “We are seeding a national movement for the newly emerging field of deflection and pre-arrest diversion, which promises to reshape the relationship between law enforcement, behavioral health, and our communities to better respond to people with serious mental illness, save lives in the opioid epidemic, make our neighborhoods safer by reducing crime, and allowing police to better focus their resources on crime fighting.”

Governor Signs Illinois Law Enforcement Diversion Bill, First of Its Kind in the Nation

(Springfield) – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed groundbreaking legislation on Wednesday that authorizes local law enforcement leaders and community partners to create local programs that “deflect” individuals who have substance use problems away from the justice system and into addiction treatment services.

Senate Bill 3023, also known as the Community-Law Enforcement Partnership for Deflection and Substance Use Disorder Treatment Act, sponsored by Senators Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) and Tim Bivins (R-Dixon) and Representatives Marcus C. Evans, Jr. (D-Chicago) and Tom Demmer (R-Rochelle), encourages partnerships between law enforcement, substance use treatment providers, and community members to guide the development of deflection programs in their communities.

As part of a package of critical legislation to support access to treatment for substance use and mental health disorders, Governor Rauner also signed SB682, which removes prior authorizations for certain levels of substance use disorders; SB1707, which adds critical parity enforcement and transparency provisions to the state law; SB2951, which pilots an early mental health treatment program, and SB3049, the Medicaid Telehealth Act.

“The members of the General Assembly delivered great results,” said Governor Rauner at a signing ceremony at the Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation in Springfield. “Illinois is now a proud leader in these efforts. I’m honored and proud to sign these five bills.”

Among the law enforcement leaders attending the signing ceremony were Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther and Dixon City Manager and former Police Chief Danny Langloss, who, along with TASC, helped conceptualize SB3023. The legislation was informed by Guenther’s and Langloss’ direct experience leading pre-arrest diversion programs (also known as law enforcement “deflection” programs), as the police departments of Mundelein and Dixon already operate such programs.

“Senate Bill 3023 is the first of its kind legislation and recognizes a paradigm shift in law enforcement’s approach to those who struggle with substance use,” said Guenther. “I am very proud to have been a part of creating this legislation.”

“This is a hopeful day for Illinois law enforcement and those suffering from substance use disorder,” added Langloss. “The national opioid epidemic continues to impact every community. More than 72,000 Americans lost their lives last year to drug overdose. Behind every death there is a family.

“With this bill, the police now have new programs at their disposal that save lives and make our communities safer,” he said.

“With the passage of Senate Bill 3023, Illinois is leading the way on police deflection to substance use treatment,” said TASC Policy Director Laura Brookes. “These programs provide an immediate warm hand-off to treatment, and give police a new tool for getting people the help they need even before crisis sets in.”

The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) will lead the development of a set of minimum data to be collected in such programs and, for those that receive funding, serve as a performance measurement system.

“The data collection provisions mean that departments will be able to improve their programs and allow equal access to them regardless of race or ethnicity or any other factors,” said Brookes.

“We thank Governor Rauner, the bill’s sponsors, our partners in law enforcement, and all who supported this landmark legislation.”

Among the many groups filing their support for the bipartisan legislation were the League of Women Voters of Illinois, Illinois State University Police, the Illinois State Medical Society, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Illinois State’s Attorneys Association, the Chicago Urban League, and the City of Chicago Heights.

SB3023 becomes effective on January 1, 2019.

August 22, 2018 signing of Illinois Senate Bill 3023 (l. to r.): Chief Steve Howell (Dixon Police Dept.), Laura Brookes (TASC), Chief Brian Fengel (Bartonville Police Dept. and President of IL Assn. of Chiefs of Police), IL Governor Bruce Rauner, Chief Eric Guenther (Mundelein Police Dept.), Chief Dan Ryan (Leland Grove Police Dept.), Danny Langloss (City of Dixon), and Jeff Ragan (Dixon Police Dept.)

August 22, 2018: Governor Bruce Rauner signs five bills supporting access to substance use and mental health treatment, flanked by advocates including Sara Howe (left), CEO of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health.

Senate Panel OKs Bush Bill to Give Police, Communities “Road Map” to Fight Opioid Crisis

(Grayslake, IL) – An Illinois Senate panel has approved a bipartisan plan that authorizes local police departments and community partners to develop local strategies to fight the Illinois opioid crisis.

The Senate Human Services Committee on April 10 voted 8-0 to advance legislation, Senate Bill 3023, that encourages local law enforcement to “deflect” from criminal arrest individuals who have overdosed or who have substance use problems, directing them instead into substance use disorder treatment.

The “Community-Law Enforcement Partnership for Deflection and Substance Use Disorder Treatment Act,” which is sponsored by State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) and State Senator Tim Bivins (R-Dixon), provides a “roadmap” for partnerships between law enforcement, substance use treatment providers, and community members to guide the development of deflection programs in their communities, according to one of the bill’s chief proponents.

“Traditionally, local police have had two choices when faced with someone who they believe may have a substance use disorder—to arrest or to not arrest,” said Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) President Pam Rodriguez. “With the opioid crisis raging across the state, deflection provides a third option, to connect people with community-based substance use treatment services that address their underlying substance use problems. This bill lays out a roadmap to municipalities, offering guidance, program features, and a range of options.”

The number of Illinois overdose deaths from all opioids increased by 82% from 2013 to 2016.

The bill, which is also an initiative of the Village of Mundelein’s police chief and director of public safety, Eric Guenther, and the City of Dixon’s former police chief and current city manager, Danny Langloss, ensures that the impact of the programs is measured by requiring the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) to lead the development of a set of minimum data to be collected and, for programs that receive funding, serve as a performance measurement system. Mundelein and Dixon’s police departments already operate deflection programs.

“The data collection provisions also provide a platform for ensuring that the racial disparities present in the criminal justice system can be prevented in deflection programs as they develop,” said Rodriguez. “The data collection and analysis are a crucial component.”

At the Senate committee hearing, a diverse group of 157 proponents filed their support for the legislation, including the League of Women Voters of Illinois, Illinois State University Police, the Illinois State Medical Society, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Illinois State’s Attorneys Association, the Chicago Urban League, and the City of Chicago Heights, among others.

Rodriguez also expressed her appreciation of the bipartisan leadership of Senators Bush and Bivins.

“We must recognize the bipartisan leadership of Senator Bush and Senator Bivins for advancing this legislation and their commitment to fighting the opioid scourge in Illinois,” said Rodriguez. “Because of them, Illinois is the first state in the nation to consider deflection legislation this comprehensive.”

The bill now faces the full Senate.

National TASC Conference Showcases Local Diversion Programs

(Chicago) – Several criminal justice diversion programs in Illinois were showcased at the recent annual conference of National TASC, an association of programs that connect justice systems to community-based treatment.

TASC, Inc. of Illinois served as the host organization for the national conference, which took place in Chicago and drew attendees representing programs in states from North Carolina to Hawaii. One of the conference themes was the importance of diverting people with non-violent charges away from traditional criminal justice processing and into services in the community.

Although diversion is not a new concept, public opinion, health coverage brought about by Medicaid expansion, and bipartisan efforts toward criminal justice reform have propelled such initiatives to the forefront of public policy. The goals of such programs vary depending on the jurisdiction, but most aim to reduce the numbers of people going into the justice system, reduce jail stays, strengthen connections to health and supportive services in the community, and reduce recidivism.

Illinois Diversion Programs Highlighted

At the conference, held April 25-27 at the Westin Michigan Avenue, experts who have implemented front-end diversion programs in Illinois offered their experiences and strategies for developing these initiatives. Chief Eric Guenther, public safety director for the Village of Mundelein, and Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim described their collaboration in implementing smart-on-crime approaches. Motivated by the dramatic increase in opioid overdoses and deaths in the area, they are leading the development of a collaborative effort to divert people with drug problems to community-based treatment rather than arrest them. Similar programs are being designed and implemented across Illinois and the country, inspired by the Gloucester, Massachusetts, Angel Program launched in 2015.

“We have been losing a lot of young people to overdose deaths all over our county. We had to come up with a new way of dealing with this [opioid] epidemic,” said Nerheim. “The vast majority of people who come into the system are going to be back with us—back in society—and we want them to be productive members. Everyone should have the opportunity for a second chance.”

Chief Guenther noted the importance of building trust between the community and law enforcement, so that community members feel comfortable coming to the police department for help. He remarked on the police department’s unique ability to engage people any time of day, any day in the year. “A person may decide at 2:00 a.m. that they want out [of addiction], and having to wait until 8:00 a.m. may mean that we lose that window.” Guenther also stressed that planning processes should include people in recovery to ensure that programming and messaging will appeal to individuals who need help.

Mark Kammerer, the alternative prosecution/sentencing unit coordinator at the Cook County, Illinois, State’s Attorney’s Office, described the array of programs in place to divert people out of traditional case processing, noting that his office has been operating diversion programming in some fashion since the 1970s. “We now have interventions for people with the least extensive criminal background to high-risk, high-need individuals. One size does not fit all, so we offer a continuum of interventions. The goal is to identify and screen people to get them into diversion programs sooner, rather than later, in the criminal justice system.”

TASC Vice President George Williams, who offered the conference’s opening remarks, spoke of TASC’s 40-year history in advocating for people who need help, and emphasized that clients, constituents, friends, and family members are at the heart of this work. “Everything we do in this room is for the rights, interests, health, and needs of the men and women who have come through our doors,” he said.

New Opportunities via Medicaid Expansion

“Diversion programs are surging in popularity and evolving in response to current needs,” said Laura Brookes, policy director at TASC. Introducing the panel discussion, Brookes offered that the justice system can divert many people who represent a low public safety risk to programs in the community, stemming the tide of people coming into the system at the front end and throughout it.

“Now is a particularly exciting time to be involved in this work, not only because of the broad support for much-needed reform, but also with the expansion of Medicaid in many states under the Affordable Care Act,” said Brookes. “This means that local and state governments can save justice and corrections costs by establishing connections to Medicaid-reimbursable behavioral health and medical resources in the community. These resources can help increase diversion, as justice systems become confident that many of people they are diverting will be able to access the care they need and reduce offending.”

The benefits of diversion programs were highlighted at the 2016 National TASC conference.

Benefits of diversion programs were highlighted at the 2016 National TASC conference in Chicago.