Health and Justice Reforms on the Ballot: 2018 Midterm Election Results

(Chicago) – Several criminal justice initiatives advanced during the 2018 midterm elections, marking notable progress in justice reform.

In Florida, for example, voters approved Amendment 4, which restores voting rights to people—1.4 million—who have completed serving the terms of their sentences, including probation and parole, for most felony offenses. Florida voters also approved Amendment 11, which allows the state’s legislature to enact sentencing reforms that apply retroactively.

In Colorado, voters approved a ballot measure which removes language from the state Constitution that allows slavery and involuntary servitude to be used as punishment for crime. And in Louisiana, voters approved a constitutional change requiring unanimous juries for all felony convictions, which means that Oregon will soon be the only remaining state that allows juries that aren’t unanimous to send people to prison.

Medicaid expansion was also on the ballot in multiple states. Voters in Idaho, Utah, and Nebraska supported measures to expand Medicaid, meaning 36 states, plus the District of Columbia, have now adopted Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Several groups have published overviews of justice- and health-related results from the elections:

While the advancement of these justice reform initiatives is encouraging, there is more to be done.

“We are still far from the finish line in achieving comprehensive justice reform, but these are promising advances,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez.

For example, a recent investigative report critiques for-profit diversion programs in Illinois. Diversion programs are intended to divert eligible individuals who would have otherwise been arrested, charged, or incarcerated, away from the justice system and into appropriate community-based mental health or substance use treatment. However, without careful oversight, safeguards, and appropriate parameters, programs can have negative consequences.

“When programs with the stated purpose of diverting people away from the system actually draw more people into it, that’s ‘net widening,’” said Rodriguez. “This can occur, for instance, when people whose cases would have eventually been dropped are instead placed under community supervision as part of a ‘diversion’ program. But they may be charged large and unwarranted participation fees, and when they predictably fail to pay, they may be sent to jail or prison as a penalty. Obviously, scenarios like this run absolutely counter to the purpose of diversion programs.”

In a recent opinion piece, author and columnist Michelle Alexander also urged caution, writing that many current justice reforms “contain the seeds of the next generation of racial and social control,” including an increasing reliance on electronic monitoring.

“We must be thoughtful and purposeful in our reform efforts, and vigilant in guarding against unintended consequences and addressing entrenched disparities,” said Rodriguez. “Voter support for justice reforms and Medicaid expansion should serve as a catalyst in the continued pursuit of healthier and more just communities.”

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Poll: 69% Back Illinois Law Pushing Drug Treatment over Arrest

(Grayslake, IL) – A new bipartisan law that authorizes local police departments and community partners to develop local strategies to fight the Illinois opioid crisis has the overwhelming backing of Illinois voters, according to a recent poll.

On August 22, 2018, Governor Rauner signed 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 addiction treatment.

Voters like it.

An October 29-30, 2018, statewide poll of likely Illinois voters by Illinois Public Opinion, Inc. found that 69.03% supported the measure approved by Rauner while only 14.84% opposed it. And 16.13% were undecided.

The leader of one of the state’s top criminal justice advocacy groups, which spearheaded the passage of the law, said that the poll showed that Illinois voters “embrace” a new approach to criminal justice when it comes to addressing the heroin and opioid epidemic.

“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, and now voters enthusiastically embrace the third choice encouraged by the new law, a drug treatment option,” said Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) President Pam Rodriguez. “With the opioid crisis raging across the state, the new deflection law provides the third option, to connect people with community-based substance use treatment services that address their underlying substance use problems, an approach strongly endorsed by Illinois public opinion.”

The number of Illinois overdose deaths from all opioids nearly doubled between 2013 and 2017, from 1,072 to 2,110.

The “Community-Law Enforcement Partnership for Deflection and Substance Use Disorder Treatment Act,” which was sponsored in the Senate by State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) and State Senator Tim Bivins (R-Dixon) and in the House by State Rep. Marcus Evans (D-Chicago) and State Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon), creates guidelines to develop partnerships between law enforcement, substance use treatment providers, and community members.

The bill is also an initiative of the Village of Mundelein’s police chief, Eric Guenther, and the City of Dixon’s former police chief and current city manager, Danny Langloss, whose communities have pioneered deflection programs.

“These poll results reveal that common sense criminal justice reform will be rewarded by public support,” said Rodriguez. “The new legislature and the new governor, J.B. Pritzker, should be encouraged by public opinion and continue forward on a criminal justice reform path.”

The automated survey, which contacted 497 likely voters by both landlines and cellphones, had a +/- 4.4% margin of error.

The law goes into force on January 1, 2019.

TASC 2018 Luncheon to Honor Leaders in Justice System Diversion

(Chicago) — TASC’s 2018 Leadership Awards Luncheon will recognize experts who are forging new solutions in stopping cycles of justice system involvement before they begin.

Former Cook County Jail Executive Director Dr. Nneka Tapia, Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther, and Dixon City Manager and former Police Chief Danny Langloss each will receive awards for their public health-informed approaches to criminal justice.

Dr. Nneka Tapia, TASC 2018 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree

TASC’s Public Voice Leadership Award will be presented to Dr. Tapia, whose singular expertise as both a psychologist and corrections executive has made her a recognized and passionate advocate for mental wellness, criminal justice reform, and interventions for youth. In her eleven years of service and leadership within the Cook County Jail, including three as executive director, she advanced groundbreaking strategies to promote health and reduce recidivism, including the Cook County Mental Health Transition Center and TASC’s Supportive Release Center. These innovations help jail detainees who are experiencing poverty, substance use disorders, and mental health conditions to transition successfully to services and well-being in the community. Earlier this year, Dr. Tapia became the inaugural Leader in Residence at Chicago Beyond, with a focus on young people exposed to trauma and those whose parents have been incarcerated.

Danny Langloss, TASC 2018 Justice Leadership Award Honoree

TASC’s Justice Leadership Award will be presented to Guenther and Langloss, who have been pivotal in reshaping how law enforcement officers respond when they encounter individuals who have overdosed or have substance use problems. Instead of arresting people or ignoring the situation, officers can offer deflection to treatment programs. In Dixon and Lee counties, Langloss launched the Safe Passage program, whereby those addicted to opioids and other drugs can walk into the police department and get connected to the help they need in the community.

Eric Guenther, TASC 2018 Justice Leadership Award Honoree

Likewise in Lake County, Chief Guenther co-created the A Way Out program and is an instrumental partner in the Lake County Opioid Initiative, which similarly offer avenues to treatment without fear of arrest. Together with TASC in 2018, Guenther and Langloss spearheaded the recently signed Senate Bill 3023, which authorizes and encourages the implementation of such programs across Illinois. Through their expertise, compassion, and leadership, Guenther and Langloss are advancing standard law enforcement practices for fighting addiction.

“Together, our three honorees represent part of a national movement toward recognizing that the justice system should not be the first place where people get help for substance use or mental health challenges,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “Individuals can be diverted into treatment before arrest, and for those who are arrested, reentry with connections to care is essential.

“We are excited to recognize leaders whose initiatives are not only preventing and breaking cycles of incarceration here in Illinois, but whose successes are having an impact across the country,” she added.

TASC’s 2018 Leadership Awards Luncheon will take place at the Westin Michigan Avenue Chicago on Wednesday, December 12 from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM. Registration is requested by November 28. To reserve tickets, please click here.

For sponsorship opportunities or more information, please contact Nitza Reyes-Rodriguez at 312-573-8201.

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.

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.

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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 2016 Awards Luncheon Honors Civic and Philanthropic Leaders

(Chicago) – Business leaders, government officials, service providers, and community partners were among the more than 300 guests who filled the ballroom of the Westin Michigan Avenue on December 14 as TASC presented its 2016 Leadership Awards to The Chicago Reporter and John Kaul Greene.

Several past honorees—Congressman Danny Davis, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, attorney and former Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine, attorney and former Illinois Appellate Judge Gino DiVito, and recently retired WGN news anchor Robert Jordan—were on hand to congratulate the 2016 award recipients and celebrate TASC’s 40-year anniversary.

Justice Leadership Award

In presenting TASC’s 2016 Justice Leadership Award to Susan Smith Richardson, editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter, TASC President Pam Rodriguez observed, “We know that the landscape of journalism has changed dramatically in the last several years. In this environment, quality journalism is a gift and a necessity for a free society.

The Reporter has explored the racial inequities in state and federal drug laws, and the complexities of undoing the damage of those laws,” Rodriguez said. “They have explored the links between poverty and incarceration, including the importance of repairing the cash bail system. They have reported extensively on the juvenile justice system in Illinois, and their reports have helped to inform policies that have significantly reduced our juvenile justice population.”

“Good journalism can help connect us to one another as a community, and it helps us to make informed decisions,” she said.

“I want to thank Pam for describing exactly why journalism in the public interest is important,” said Richardson in accepting the award, also crediting the founders and staff of The Chicago Reporter, as well as the Community Renewal Society with which it is aligned. She emphasized the importance of facts, figures, and numbers in measuring the city’s progress toward racial equality.

“What we hope we can do in this din, where facts are up for grabs, and certainly truth is always up for dispute, is to consistently pound away… using data, using rigorous reporting to be able to document what is actually happening in this community. We want to tell those stories.”

Public Voice Leadership Award

TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca spoke of the recently released Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol Drugs and Health, which highlights the importance of diverting people to treatment, delivering evidence-based care, and enhancing the coordination of care and sustained recovery.

“Our work is as important and relevant today as it was 40 years ago,” said Palanca. More than 27 million people report misusing drugs, and 66 million report binge drinking. But only 10 percent get the help they need.

“It takes all of us to create communities of support for those we serve,” Palanca said, recognizing the diversity of public sector and private sector partners in the room. He praised TASC’s 2016 Public Voice Award honoree, John Kaul Greene, as “a man who cares deeply about doing the right thing, and about making our world a better place.

“John Greene is a husband, father, mentor, scholar, and a gentleman in every sense of the word. He is a longtime and consistent advocate for the work that brings us together today.”

Greene built businesses in Europe and Chicago for William Blair & Company before retiring as a partner in 2004. Among his many volunteer endeavors, he served on the board of a prominent addiction treatment organization when he met Palanca.

“It is through Peter Palanca that I have come to understand more about TASC, and what a significant role it plays in helping the most needy with addictive problems,” said Greene.

“My strongest impression of TASC is that you are down there in the trenches working with people who need it most… Through seeing your work, and in my own life, I have witnessed what can happen when you plant the seeds of recovery. For each person you help today, you are also helping his or her family members, friends, neighbors, future employers, and fellow citizens.”

40 Years and Looking Forward

“TASC is celebrating its 40th birthday this year,” noted TASC Board Chair Cecil Curtwright, associate vice provost at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It is my belief that TASC is just entering its prime. It is still a young organization… always reinventing and coming up with new ideas.”

TASC’s 2016 event helped raise funds for the Supportive Release Center, a new initiative that will provide immediate connections to services for individuals in need who are leaving the Cook County Jail. A collaborative effort between TASC, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Heartland Health Outreach, and The University of Chicago Urban Labs through their Health Innovations Award, the SRC also has received support from several Chicago-area foundations and will open in 2017.

Curtwright offered special appreciation to the event’s 2016 presenting sponsor, PBC Advisors, and elite sponsor, Alkermes, as well as select sponsors John Kaul Greene, Janssen, Bill and Lezlie O’Donnell, William Blair, and Yes Lifecycle Marketing. He thanked sponsors at all levels, as well as this year’s event chair, John Zielinski, who helped ensure that this year’s event was the most successful ever.

“TASC remains committed to advocating for our clients and to improving the systems in which they are involved, no matter where, no matter when, and no matter what,” said Rodriguez. “And we have all of you—old friends and new—working beside us, inspiring new ideas and innovation.

“We are all leaders in this work, and we are all necessary in this work, and because of what I know about all of you, I remain hopeful and optimistic as we encounter the changes and opportunities that lie ahead.”

Founded in Illinois in 1976, TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) offers programs and promotes public policies that divert people who have substance use and mental health conditions out of the justice system and into recovery in the community.

TASC presents its 2016 Justice Leadership Award to the Chicago Reporter. Left to right: Peter Palanca, TASC; Susan Smith, The Chicago Reporter; Pam Rodriguez, TASC; Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, Community Renewal Society

TASC presents its 2016 Justice Leadership Award to the Chicago Reporter. Left to right: Peter Palanca, TASC; Susan Smith Richardson, The Chicago Reporter; Pam Rodriguez, TASC; Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, Community Renewal Society.

 

John Kaul Greene (center right) accepts TASC's 2016 Public Voice Leadership Award from (left to right): TASC Board Chair Cecil Curtwright, TASC President Pam Rodriguez, and TASC Executive VP Peter Palanca

John Kaul Greene (center right) accepts TASC’s 2016 Public Voice Leadership Award. Left to right: TASC Board Chair Cecil Curtwright; Pam Rodriguez, TASC; John Greene; Peter Palanca, TASC.

The Chicago Reporter and John Kaul Greene to Receive TASC’s 2016 Leadership Awards

(Chicago) — TASC is pleased to announce that it will present its 2016 Leadership Awards to The Chicago Reporter and John Kaul Greene at the agency’s annual luncheon on December 14.

TASC’s Justice Leadership Award will be presented to Susan Smith Richardson, editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter, an award-winning online news organization and program of the Community Renewal Society.

Susan Smith Richardson, Editor and Publisher, The Chicago Reporter

Susan Smith Richardson, Editor and Publisher, The Chicago Reporter

“The Chicago Reporter consistently gives voice to issues that deeply affect TASC clients, our communities, and society at large,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “To succeed in addressing pervasive challenges such as poverty and injustice, we must be able to tell the truth about what’s happening. The Chicago Reporter helps tell that truth.”

2016 TASC Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree John Kaul Greene

2016 TASC Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree
John Kaul Greene

TASC’s 2016 TASC Public Voice Leadership Award honoree is John Kaul Greene, a lifelong civic leader and philanthropist whose respected voice has helped to reduce the quiet stigma that families face when confronted with addiction and mental health challenges. Greene initiated and led new businesses for William Blair & Company in Europe and Chicago, retiring as a partner in 2004.

“John is a leader who has helped elevate the conversation around issues of health and recovery,” said TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca. “He has helped countless families to and through the winding roads of recovery, and he is a powerful champion for the work we do.”

TASC’s luncheon will take place at the Westin Michigan Avenue on Wednesday, December 14 from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM. Please visit tasc.org for tickets and sponsorship opportunities.