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.

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TASC Honors Legal Action Center President Paul Samuels and WGN News Anchor Bob Jordan

(Chicago) — Moving stories of parents in prison, uplifting images of their recovery and family reunification, an energized room of 340 guests, and inspiring words from respected leaders. These were some of the highlights of TASC’s 2013 Leadership Awards Luncheon, which took place December 11 and honored Legal Action Center President Paul Samuels and WGN-TV Anchor Robert H. Jordan, Jr.

Each year, TASC’s Leadership Awards Luncheon celebrates the outstanding leadership of those who consistently demonstrate innovation and courage in addressing some of society’s most pervasive challenges.

TASC President Pamela Rodriguez presented this year’s TASC Justice Leadership Award to Samuels, who has dedicated his career to justice and fairness. He leads the New York-based Legal Action Center, whose mission is to fight discrimination against people with histories of addiction, HIV/AIDS, or criminal records, and to advocate for sound public policies in these areas. Rodriguez praised the exceptional team of individuals and partners that Samuels has brought together as president of the Legal Action Center, noting that, “For more than 30 years, Paul Samuels has established himself and the organization he directs as one of the preeminent leaders in efforts dedicated to justice and fairness, particularly for people with substance use disorders.”

“This is all about teamwork and collaboration,” emphasized Samuels. “We couldn’t do anything that really mattered without all of you, everybody in this room, TASC, and all the other advocates and service providers and people around the country.” Samuels said he was “in awe of the work that TASC does,” referencing the organization’s direct services for nearly 29,000 people each year, and continued, “I am also very familiar with the terrific public policy work that you do in addition to all the direct services work, and in all these intersecting areas of drug policy, mental health, health care financing, diversion, alternatives to incarceration, community reentry, juvenile justice. It’s just amazing the work that all of you have done to build TASC into a powerhouse organization, not just in Illinois. It’s nationally renowned for its leadership, creativity, and cutting edge work. It’s truly an honor to receive an award from you.”

TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca presented TASC’s 2013 Public Voice Leadership Award to Jordan, who frequently covers issues related to criminal justice and health, including a special hour-long program last year dedicated to community solutions to youth violence.

“It was Bob’s search to better understand the complex issues of youth, violence, community safety, and their possible connections to addiction and mental illness which brought TASC and Bob Jordan together,” said Palanca. “His powerful curiosity and commitment to uncover, understand, and address the complicated—sometimes messy—social realities at the root of the news story, his leadership in bringing these discussions to a public forum, and his willingness to personally connect people, services and resources together. This is exactly what this award is about.”

In accepting his award, Jordan recounted a recent story of a young person who had gotten in trouble with the law, and whose life had been turned around with TASC’s help. Jordan said, “It shows how we all are connected somehow to this immense problem of people making mistakes, doing [stupid] things that can just ruin their lives, and we all have seen it happen. So we know that there has to be some coordinated effort with judges, with programs like TASC, with agencies that work together, and with our legislature and trying to work on adjusting our laws, and our own selves in adjusting the way we think about how we’re going to deal with this enormous problem.”

Samuels summed up the problem: “In the 90s the war on drugs turned into a war on drug users—or, more accurately, on people of color and poor people who use drugs, or who were just suspected of using drugs. Our nation’s public policies emphasize mass incarceration, mostly of young, African American and Latino men, even though whites use drugs even more, by most studies, than people of color. And our policies also put forward the horrible notion of permanent punishment of people convicted or even arrested for a drug offense. The list of barriers that have been put in place are horrifying, too long to list. They include denying people employment in a broad range of fields because of a criminal history and/or an addiction history, evicting people from public housing, and not even letting them visit their families.”

TASC has a 37-year history of providing program and policy responses to these challenges, with a steady track record of facilitating clients’ success and reducing recidivism. “TASC has an unwavering commitment to our communities and clients, our partner agencies and institutions—and to excellence,” said TASC Board Chair Marcia Lipetz. “We know our programs work because we rely on evidence-based practice.”

Founded in Cook County in 1976, TASC is a statewide, nonprofit agency that serves adults and youth who have substance use or mental health problems and who are involved in courts, jails, prisons, or foster care. TASC’s Center for Health and Justice provides national consultation and public policy solutions in health and justice.

Mark your calendars: TASC’s 2014 luncheon will take place on December 10 at the Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

Twitter @TASC_CHJ

TASC to Honor WGN’s Bob Jordan, Legal Action Center’s Paul Samuels on December 11

(Chicago) — TASC President Pamela Rodriguez has announced the recipients of the TASC 2013 Leadership Awards, which will be presented at the agency’s annual luncheon on Wednesday, December 11 at the Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

The agency will present its 2013 Public Voice Leadership Award to Bob Jordan, news anchor and reporter on superstation WGN-TV, seen by millions of viewers nationwide. Last December, Dr. Jordan approached TASC to explore issues related to youth violence in Chicago. His keen interest and sensitivity to the complexities of violence led to an in-depth WGN cover story and hour-long CLTV special focused on health, family, community, public policy, and more. Dr. Jordan’s reporting consistently explores social challenges that personally and profoundly affect local families and communities.

TASC will present its 2013 Justice Leadership Award to Paul Samuels, president and director of the Legal Action Center, a not-for-profit public interest law firm with a national scope. Samuels has dedicated his career to justice and fairness, including work on ground-breaking litigation defending the rights of people with alcohol and drug histories, HIV disease, and criminal records.  He has been at the head of numerous campaigns to combat discrimination, expand services, reform sentencing laws, and influence other important public policy advances through Congressional testimony, state and national advisory groups, lectures, and collaborative partnerships.

“We have a tradition at TASC of honoring leaders each year who have made a difference in improving programs, policies, and public awareness around issues related to health and justice,” said Rodriguez.  “We are absolutely delighted to present our 2013 awards to Bob Jordan and Paul Samuels, who each are remarkably influential and dedicated to helping our society make more informed, sound decisions about social matters that affect us all.”

For information on luncheon sponsorship opportunities or to reserve your tickets for the December 11 luncheon, please visit TASC at www.tasc.org, email nreyes@tasc.org, or call (312) 573-8201.

Dr. Robert H. Jordan, Jr., WGN-TV Weekend News Anchor

Dr. Robert H. Jordan, Jr., WGN-TV

Paul N. Samuels, Legal Action Center President

Paul N. Samuels, Legal Action Center