National Public Health Emergency Declared in Face of Opioid Crisis; TASC and Partners Collaborating to Offer Solutions and Strategies

(Chicago) – Drug overdoses killed more than 64,000 people in the United States in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s an average of 175 people per day.

On October 26, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency, “directing all executive agencies to use every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis.”

In his announcement, the President indicated that a new policy would overcome the Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion that disallows Medicaid payment for certain services at substance use disorder treatment facilities that have more than 16 beds. He also discussed measures to confront illegal drug trafficking, improve safe prescribing practices, and develop non-addictive painkillers.

No requests for federal funding were attached to the announcement.

“What’s important for people to know is that, with funding, there are solutions that can be brought to bear on this crisis,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “From Chicago to Rockford to the Metro-East region of Illinois, and from Maryland to Ohio, we have been working closely with communities severely affected by this crisis. We are finding and delivering solutions together.”

Nationally, the Addiction Policy Forum, of which TASC is a partner, shares innovative approaches happening in communities across the country, from home-based treatment to family recovery initiatives. Earlier this week, APF shared eight priorities to address addiction in the United States, from helping families in crisis to expanding treatment access to reframing criminal justice.

Collaborative Solutions and Strategies for Justice Systems

Opioid use disorders are highly prevalent among criminal justice populations, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Furthermore, a Washington State study showed that the risk of dying within the first two weeks of release from prison are 12 times higher than for other state residents, with overdose being the leading cause of death.

Working with expert researchers, justice leaders, and practitioners across the country, the Center for Health and Justice at TASC has developed collaborative opioid response strategies and solutions for all points in the justice system, beginning with law enforcement and through to parole.

“As first responders, law enforcement officers often are on the front lines of the epidemic. Not only can they carry naloxone to revive individuals who have overdosed, but can save a lives again by placing people in treatment instead of arresting them,” said Jac Charlier, national director for justice initiatives at the Center for Health and Justice at TASC.

“When police, treatment, and communities work together, there’s an array of public health responses that can happen pre-arrest, before people enter the justice system.”

To this end, TASC is a founding partner in the Policy, Treatment, and Community (PTAC) Collaborative, whose mission is to increase health and public safety by widening community and behavioral health and social service options available through law enforcement diversion. Sharing research and information on robust partnerships to confront the opioid crisis in local jurisdictions, the PTAC Collaborative will hold its inaugural conference on pre-arrest diversion in March 2018.

TASC’s Center for Health and Justice also has worked with partners to develop collaborative responses for jails, courts, and reentry phases of the justice system, as well as tools and strategies that span the continuum, including rapid assessment and treatment capacity expansion.

Additionally, the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence released a fact sheet earlier this week on the use of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder in the justice system. TASC participated in the expert panel cited in the report.

“Families and communities are hurting,” said Rodriguez. “We’re joining forces with policymakers, justice leaders, and practitioners to help people and communities get the services they need. We need to keep people alive.”

To learn more, visit the Center for Health and Justice (CHJ) at TASC, or contact Jac Charlier, national director for justice initiatives at CHJ.

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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.

TASC Offers Roll Call Videos for Law Enforcement: The Science of Addiction, Building Partnership with Treatment

(Chicago) – The Center for Health and Justice at TASC has produced two short videos designed to support law enforcement in connecting addicted individuals to treatment in the community.

The videos can be viewed on the Center for Health and Justice website.

When people are addicted to drugs, their decision-making abilities are compromised. With information on how addiction affects the brain, and how to effectively partner with drug treatment organizations, many law enforcement agencies are working to reduce crime and improve community relations by diverting low-risk individuals to treatment rather than arrest them when their offenses are related to addiction.

Designed for showing during roll call or staff meetings, the videos cover two specific areas:

What Happens When a Brain is Addicted

  • Dr. Timothy Condon, former science advisor to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and past deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, discusses addiction as a disease of the brain and the challenge of managing it, similar to other chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

Building Partnerships with Addiction Treatment

  • Peter Palanca, executive vice president of TASC, discusses opportunities to build partnerships between law enforcement and drug treatment providers in the community. This video provides questions that law enforcement can ask providers during an initial meeting to learn about the services they provide.

For information on how to use these videos in your law enforcement setting, please contact Jac Charlier, director of consulting and training for the Center for Health and Justice at TASC.

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Funding for the production of the videos was provided through a grant awarded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Executive Office of the President. Points of view or opinions in the videos are those of the presenters and do not represent the official position or policies of the Executive Office of the President.

TASC Consulting Supports New White House Data-Driven Justice Initiative

(Chicago) – On June 30, the White House launched the Data-Driven Justice Initiative with a bipartisan coalition of 67 city, county, and state governments who have committed to using data-driven strategies to divert low-level offenders with mental illness out of the criminal justice system. Coalition participants are changing approaches to pretrial incarceration so that people with lower-level charges no longer stay in jail simply because they cannot afford a bond.

These innovative strategies, which have measurably reduced jail populations in several communities, help stabilize individuals and families, better serve communities, and often save money in the process.

“The Data-Driven Justice communities are leading by example by committing to adopt these proven strategies that reduce unnecessary arrests and incarceration. These approaches provide much needed stability to individuals and families, and make our communities stronger while saving taxpayer dollars,” ‎said DJ Patil, U.S. Chief Data Scientist.

To help advance these efforts, TASC responded to the White House’s call to action and will provide telephone and on-site consulting to several jurisdictions within the coalition that are developing data-driven diversion practices.

“We are thrilled to be working with the White House and with partners across the country to support good diversion policies and practices, based on the evidence of what works,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez.

The DDJ communities will implement the following strategies that have proven to be effective in reducing unnecessary incarceration in jails:

  • Use data to identify and proactively break the cycle of incarceration. DDJ communities will bring data together from across criminal justice and health systems to identify the individuals with the highest number of contacts with police, ambulance, emergency departments, and other services, and link them to health, behavioral health, and social services in the community, with a goal of reducing over-reliance on emergency healthcare and encounters with the criminal justice system.
  • Equip law enforcement and first responders with the tools they need to respond and divert. Recognizing that police officers, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and firefighters are often front-line responders to people experiencing mental health crises, DDJ communities will create systems and protocols to help effectively de-escalate crisis situations and safely divert people to the appropriate service providers instead of arresting them.
  • Use data-driven, validated, pretrial risk assessment tools to inform pretrial release decisions. DDJ communities will work towards using objective, data-driven, validated risk-assessment tools to identify low-risk defendants held in jail and identify opportunities for their safe release.

“Just as the power of ‘big data’ is being used in the private sector to have greater insight and impact than ever before on their decision making, so too is it the right time for it be put to use by criminal justice decision makers for the same reasons,” said Jac Charlier, who directs training and consulting services for the Center for Health and Justice at TASC. “The vision of safer communities and our citizens leading better lives is very compelling.”

Each year, more than 11 million people move through America’s 3,100 local jails, many on low-level, non-violent misdemeanors, costing local governments approximately $22 billion a year.

Leveraging the opportunities of Medicaid expansion, TASC and its Center for Health and Justice have been working with local, state, and national partners to develop and implement strategies to safely divert people out of the justice system as early as possible.

Maureen McDonnell, who directs healthcare strategies for TASC and provides consulting services nationally, sees the tremendous advances possible through such diversion strategies.

“Through coordinated efforts taking place within jurisdictions across the country, millions of people with substance use and mental health disorders ultimately can be diverted away from the front end of the justice system and into appropriate care in the community,” she said. “This is a very exciting time.”

(left to right): TASC’s Jac Charlier, Pam Rodriguez, and Maureen McDonnell participated in the Data-Driven Justice inaugural workshop at the White House on June 13.

(left to right): TASC’s Jac Charlier, Pam Rodriguez, and Maureen McDonnell participated in the Data-Driven Justice inaugural workshop at the White House on June 13.