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.


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.


International Policy Experts Visit TASC, Explore Alternatives to Incarceration

(Chicago) – Highlighting the value of evidence-based alternatives to incarceration for people with substance use disorders, TASC hosted a three-day visit last week of representatives from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the U.S. State Department, the Organization of American States, and the judiciary of India.

Through conversations and site visits with justice and service partners in Cook and Lake counties, the visit highlighted the necessity of coordinated linkages between public health and justice systems.

In Illinois, TASC serves some 27,000 people each year by serving as a bridge between public systems and health services in the community.

“By the nature of what we do at TASC, and by the very definition of case management, we know that we cannot do our work alone,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “Our successes come about through the combined efforts of partners who design and implement sound policies and practices every day.”

Partnerships highlighted during last week’s visit included prosecutorial diversion programs led by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office; strategies led by the Cook County Public Defender’s Office; Lake County’s A Way Out initiative organized by police, prosecutors, and the health department; Medicaid enrollment, treatment, and continuity of care at the point of release from jail, led by the Cook County Department of Corrections; alternative sentencing and problem-solving courts within the criminal division of the Circuit Court of Cook County; and community-based treatment, along with TASC case management.

The purpose of the visit was to highlight core components and strategies of successful alternatives to incarceration for people with substance use disorders. The team of visitors included Charlotte A. Sisson, senior foreign affairs officer with the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) at the U.S. Department of State; Richard Baum, international division director with ONDCP; Antonio Lomba, acting chief of the Institutional Strengthening and Policy Coordination Section with the Organization of American States; and Chritharth Palli, law clerk to Justice T.S.Thakur, 43rd Chief Justice of India. Melody M. Heaps, president of MMH & Associates, worked closely with Rodriguez and TASC leaders to plan the visit.

For more than a decade, TASC has worked with federal and international partners to promote community-based systems of addiction recovery around the world. Through the leadership and support of INL, TASC Vice President George Williams has led curriculum development and week-long training events provided by TASC teams in South Africa, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Rodriguez and Williams direct TASC’s international activities, working alongside partners at INL, ONDCP, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, the Colombo Plan, and MMH & Associates.

Together, these entities share the goal of reducing substance use disorders and their consequences worldwide.

Rodriguez noted that local strategies and successes can elevate conversations at national and international levels. “We are grateful for the tremendous partnerships in Cook and Lake counties that showcase what system-wide interventions can do,” said Rodriguez. “It is gratifying to know that our work here can have an impact for families and communities around the world.”

TASC and partners welcomed guests from international agencies for a three-day site visit focused on diversion initiatives, jail interventions, and sentencing alternatives in Cook and Lake counties. Left to right: Charlotte Sisson, U.S. State Dept.; George Williams, TASC; Richard Baum, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; Antonio Lomba, Organization of American States; Chritharth Palli, India judiciary; Pamela F. Rodriguez, TASC; Dr. Nneka Jones-Tapia, Cook County Dept. of Corrections; Melody M Heaps, MMH & Associates

Sept. 14-16, 2016: TASC and partners welcomed guests from international agencies for a three-day site visit focused on diversion initiatives, jail interventions, and sentencing alternatives in Cook and Lake counties. Left to right: Charlotte Sisson, U.S. State Dept.; George Williams, TASC; Richard Baum, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; Chritharth Palli, India judiciary; Pam Rodriguez, TASC; Dr. Nneka Jones-Tapia, Cook County Dept. of Corrections; Melody M. Heaps, MMH & Associates; Antonio Lomba, Organization of American States.


TASC President Pam Rodriguez (center) describes the roles of case management in connecting justice systems to services in the community.

TASC President Pam Rodriguez (center) describes the roles of case management in connecting justice systems to services in the community.

Congressman Danny Davis, White House Drug Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske Headline Oct. 17 Forum on Drug Prevention, Treatment, and Adjudication Programs

(Chicago, IL) – Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL) will convene a forum featuring Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and local drug prevention and treatment advocates to discuss the impact of Federal and local initiatives to combat recidivism and substance misuse.

The forum will take place at A Safe Haven, 2750 W. Roosevelt Road in Chicago on Monday, October 17 beginnin at 9:00 A.M.                 

The criminal justice system is the largest single source of referrals to substance abuse treatment in the U.S., comprising 37 percent of those in treatment. Criminal justice referrals are less likely to drop out of treatment and more likely to complete treatment than all other referrals (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). Illinois has implemented several alternative-to-incarceration models that redirect eligible people into community-based treatment from all points in the justice system (e.g., prosecution, court, and sentencing), thereby reducing substance misuse and recidivism while maintaining supervision and accountability.

The forum will feature two panels with Federal officials and local advocates. The first panel will discuss Federal initiatives available in the Chicago area, including civilian and veteran drug prevention programs and drug courts, and the second panel will highlight the success of local drug treatment and adjudication programs and their impact on the health and safety of local communities. 

Congressman Davis is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health Care, District of Columbia, Census and the National Archives, and lead sponsor of the Second Chance Act, which authorizes federal grants to entities that provide drug treatment, mental health care, housing and jobs for people newly released from prison.

Who:                Panel 1

  Panel 2

TASC, Inc. is an advocate of cost-effective alternatives to incarceration and is a member agency of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, represented on Panel 2.  

Members of the media and the general public are welcome to attend the forum.

83% of Adult Males Arrested in Chicago Test Positive for Illegal Drugs at Time of Arrest

(Chicago, IL) – June 15, 2011. A new report released today by the White House reveals that across 10 U.S. cities/counties, more than half of adult males arrested for crimes ranging from misdemeanors to felonies tested positive for at least one drug, including 83% of men arrested in Chicago—the highest rate among the sites studied.

“These findings illustrate why we must approach our Nation’s drug problem as a public health and safety problem,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy, who released the study. “Drug addiction is too often the root of crime in our communities.”

The 2010 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Annual Report  offers findings from the Federal data collection program that tracks drug use patterns among arrestees. In each of the 10 U.S. sites included in the program, data are collected from adult male arrestees, through voluntary interviews and drug tests, within 48 hours of arrest. The sample is drawn from all individuals arrested, not just those arrested on drug charges.

The head of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC, Inc.), which provides statewide recovery management services for individuals mandated by the Illinois courts to go through treatment as an alternative to prison, is unsurprised by the report’s findings for Chicago.

“Since 2009, the State of Illinois has cut drug abuse treatment funding by 30 percent and as a result far fewer people are receiving the treatment they need,” said TASC President Pamela Rodriguez. “In 2007, 98,000 people in Illinois were receiving treatment, and this year that number is down to 69,000.”

Rodriguez also noted that drug treatment is a powerful weapon to fight crime.

“We have found that among our court-ordered drug treatment clients, criminal activity is reduced by 71 percent compared to before they came to TASC,” said Rodriguez. “You will find no more effective, no more cost efficient weapon to reduce crime among offenders using drugs than drug treatment.”

Rodriguez said that prison costs five times more than treatment with supervision.

“Prison time does not prevent drug-related crimes, it only delays crimes,” said Rodriguez. “Drug treatment prevents crimes.”

Overall, drug use in the United States has dropped substantially over the past 30 years. In response to comprehensive efforts to address drug use at the local, state, Federal, and international levels, the number of Americans using illicit drugs today is roughly half the rate it was in the late 70s.

More recently, there has been a 46 percent drop in current cocaine use among young adults (age 18 to 25 years) over the past five years, and a 68 percent drop in the rate of people testing positive for cocaine in the workplace since 2006.

TASC Model Recommended in National Drug Control Strategy

The 2010 National Drug Control Strategy includes specific mention of TASC as a model to help break the cycle of drug use, crime, delinquency, and incarceration.

Released by the White House, the strategy establishes five-year goals for reducing drug use and its consequences.  It was developed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) with input from federal, state, and local partners. 

With 50 percent of 7 million adult offenders in the U.S. classified as dependent on drugs, one of the strategy’s recommendations is that the infrastructure be developed to promote alternatives to incarceration when appropriate. Recommended actions include:

A. Enhance and Promote Diversion Strategies

B. Support Drug and Other Problem-Solving Courts

C. Promote TASC Model of Intensive Case Management

D. Foster Equitable Drug Sentencing

E. Promote Best Practices as Alternatives to Incarceration

Under the TASC recommendation, the National Drug Control Strategy reports:

 “Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) offers a state-level model for how intensive case management of drug offenders might work to reduce crime and incarceration and support reentry programs. In many states and localities, governments have provided access to treatment as an alternative to prison for nonviolent offenders with substance abuse or dependence disorders. If clients meet eligibility criteria under the statute, TASC conducts an indepth assessment of their criminal justice history, the nature and extent of addiction, readiness for treatment, and likelihood of treatment success. Through a specialized system of clinical case management, TASC initiates and motivates positive behavior change and long-term recovery for individuals in criminal justice, corrections, juvenile justice, child welfare, and public aid systems.

“TASC case managers develop individualized service plans that include links to community-based substance abuse treatment, medical/mental health services, vocational/educational programs, and other needed social services. This approach has translated into substantial cost-savings through referrals to treatment and services. States should look to places that have effectively implemented the TASC process, such as Illinois and New York, and the Department of Justice will continue to fund alternatives to incarceration so that TASC and TASC-like processes can work effectively.”

In Illinois, TASC’s case management services increase the success rates of those mandated to treatment as part of their probation sentence. Clients who receive TASC’s services are twice as successful in treatment as other treatment clients in Illinois. Two thirds (64%) of TASC clients complete treatment successfully, compared to only one third (33%) of all criminal justice-referred clients in Illinois.

Please click here to access the full strategy.

Cuts to Drug Treatment Fiscally Irresponsible; Budget Cuts Shift Costs to Counties, Threaten Public Safety; Quinn Wants IL General Assembly to Vote on Revenue Wednesday

(Chicago) – In the face of massive budget cuts that eliminate state funding for drug treatment, criminal courts across Illinois face backlogs and chaos if treatment is not available as a sentencing option for nonviolent offenders.

The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, the LaSalle News Tribune, and Chicago Public Radio are among those in the past few days who have reported on how the budget cuts create problems for courts, jails, and prisons.

DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett opposes the state cuts of TASC funding.

DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett opposes state budget cuts to TASC.

DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett held a press conference in Wheaton on Monday to protest the proposed state budget. “If these cuts were to take place, it would be damaging to Illinois’ criminal justice system,” he said. “Cutting funding to vital organizations such as TASC that provide crucial services for drug related offenses would end up costing the state significantly more money in the long run.” (See article in Fox Valley Villages Sun.)

Cuts Force Suspension of TASC Court Services 

Pursuant to Illinois statute, TASC is the only program designated by the state to provide substance abuse assessments, treatment placement, and monitoring of eligible drug-addicted offenders as an alternative to incarceration. An independent, nonprofit agency, TASC places and supervises clients in state-funded treatment programs across Illinois

TASC received notice last week from the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) that TASC’s statewide services for the Illinois courts are being de-funded by 76 percent as of July 1. Drug treatment providers across Illinois are facing equally back-breaking cuts.

The cuts to TASC and treatment are disproportionate to the already devastating 50 percent budget cuts faced by related human services. (See June 19 editorial by the Peoria Journal Star.)

TASC has been forced to suspend intake and notify current clients that, unless and until the budget is resolved, they will not be receiving TASC’s services after July 1. Staff in programs affected by the budget cuts – representing more than half of the statewide agency – are being placed on unpaid furlough pending the outcome of state budget decisions in Springfield.

LaSalle County State’s Attorney Brian Towne told the LaSalle News Tribune, “TASC has done an admirable job of helping those who need to be helped. Without their services, repeat offenders will undoubtedly continue to fill our court system.”

TASC’s clients have significantly better outcomes, in terms of reduced drug use and reduced crime, than offenders who do not get TASC.

Budget Cuts Shift Costs to Counties, Add Costs to State

The FY10 state budget eliminates treatment for 65,000 people in the coming year, including 25,000 who are referred to treatment by the criminal justice system.

If each of these individuals is held in jail an extra 30 days due to the lack of treatment in the community, the cost to Illinois counties will be $74 million in the coming year (based on an average daily jail cost of $125 in Cook County and $70 outside of Cook County).

As of Friday, June 19, there were 126 people waiting in county jails across Illinois for a TASC assessment. They are waiting because the TASC budget cuts have forced the suspension of intake. Thirty-six are in Cook County ($125/day) and 90 are in other jails across Illinois (average $70/day). It is currently costing taxpayers $10,800 for every day these 126 people wait in jail.

Additionally, in FY08, approximately 5,500 adults were sentenced to TASC under ILCS 301/40, the statute that allows for supervised treatment as an alternative to incarceration for certain categories of felony offenders. Without TASC’s treatment placement and monitoring services for these individuals, they would most likely be headed to prison at an additional cost of $154 million to Illinois taxpayers.

In a state that already spends 25 times more on the consequences of addiction than on preventing and treating it, these cuts are “financially absurd,” according to TASC Executive Vice President Pam Rodriguez.

Budget Cuts Threaten Public Safety

Data released recently by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy show that Chicago leads the nation when it comes to arrestees testing positive for illicit drugs, with nearly nine out of ten having used drugs within 48 hours of their booking.

Without treatment available as a sentencing option, judges have three options: (1) send more nonviolent offenders to prison, at a cost to taxpayers eight times that of supervised treatment; (2) hold nonviolent offenders in county jails, at an average cost to county taxpayers of $2,100 – $3,750 per person per month; or (3) release addicted offenders to the community with their addictions intact, and without access to treatment or TASC supervision.

“TASC and drug treatment are fiscally responsible solutions to some of society’s most pervasive problems,” says Ms. Rodriguez. “We place into treatment and hold accountable those whose addictions cost society the most.”

Urgent Need for Budget Resolution

The impact of the cuts is already being manifested in suspended services and staff furloughs. To reverse the cuts, the General Assembly – including legislative leaders John Cullerton, Michael Madigan, Christine Radogno, and Tom Cross – will need to vote on new state revenues and also appropriate sufficient funds to drug treatment and case management.

“This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue,” emphasizes Ms. Rodriguez. “This is about fiscally sound public policy.”

Legislators will convene in Springfield on Tuesday, where they likely will be met by thousands of cut-protesting citizens. A vote on additional taxes may take place on Wednesday.

TASC President Melody Heaps Receives White House Award

Melody Heaps receives award from White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

Melody Heaps receives award from White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

(Washington, DC) — TASC Founder and President Melody Heaps was recognized by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) at a Washington reception in her honor on May 21.

Ed Jurith, General Counsel and recent Acting Director of ONDCP, presented Ms. Heaps with a framed award embossed with the White House seal.

Mr. Jurith cited Ms. Heaps’ lifelong professional commitment to applying public health and safety solutions to the complex and interrelated issues of drugs, poverty, and crime. The award read, in part, “Your contributions have been instrumental in guiding and developing major national initiatives, and your leadership has played a key role in the development and expansion of community-based treatment alternatives amd nationally recognized program models throughout the state of Illinois, and in the development of international policy.”

Leaders from National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, and numerous national organizations also expressed their gratitude to Ms. Heaps for her continuing leadership and service to the field.

After 33 years as head of Illinois TASC, Ms. Heaps will become TASC’s president emeritus and independent consultant on July 1.  Pam Rodriguez, TASC’s current executive vice president, will assume leadership of the statewide agency, which annually serves nearly 30,000 people in Illinois and provides training and consultation nationally.