Leaders in Transforming Health and Justice Recognized at TASC’s 2017 Leadership Awards Luncheon

(Chicago) – Nearly 300 guests attended TASC’s 2017 Leadership Awards Luncheon in Chicago on December 14 to honor Jessica Hulsey Nickel and Howard A. Peters III, respected champions of health and justice reforms.

Speakers shared inspiring tributes and echoed the importance of uplifting people who need help, and creating a society where fairness and access to health are the norms.

“I know firsthand the impact that substance abuse can have on individuals’ lives and the collateral damage that can occur among families when a loved one has the illness of addiction,” said TASC Board Vice Chair and Event Committee Chair John Zielinski in opening the event at the Westin Michigan Avenue. “I also know and believe in the importance of second chances. People can and do recover.”

TASC Board Chair Michelle Montgomery spoke of the importance of TASC’s work in diverting people who have with underlying substance use or mental health problems away from the justice system, and instead into treatment and other services in the community. She emphasized the need to address racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, where people of color are more likely to be arrested, to be offered a plea that includes prison time, and more likely to serve longer sentences than white Americans who commit the same offenses.

“This is devastating, and it is wrong,” said Montgomery. “We know that once an individual comes into contact with the justice system, it becomes exponentially harder to recover.

“Incarceration affects not just the individual—it severely disrupts whole families through multiple generations, devastating entire communities. As I speak, we are seeing this both in Illinois and across the nation. That is why I believe so strongly in TASC’s work in disrupting these cycles.”

Howard Peters Accepts TASC’s 2017 Justice Leadership Award

With a mission of addressing these inequities, TASC presents its Justice Leadership Award each year to a leader who has demonstrated a commitment to creating fairer, more equitable systems of justice.

With a long career of service leadership, including as director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, and later as the first secretary of what became the Illinois Department of Human Services, Howard Peters, TASC’s 2017 Justice Leadership honoree, “has the perspective and vision of a leader who has worked on all sides of the issues we address, from criminal justice to human services to healthcare,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez in presenting the award.

It was under Peters’ leadership of IDOC in the early 1990s that TASC began to offer pre- and post-release case management services for individuals leaving certain state prisons in Illinois, noted Rodriguez. Later, as the head of DHS, he oversaw all state-administered human services, including substance use and mental health, employment programs, youth services, and other programs that address poverty.

“He understands the interconnection of all these issues, and how the solutions to problems need to be comprehensive and inclusive,” said Rodriguez, who served alongside Peters on the recent Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. “When he would speak, he would change the conversation. He would ask questions that would cause people to think differently and strategize in new ways… His steady voice, deep compassion, and consistent leadership are part of what shape the criminal justice reforms happening in Illinois today.”

In accepting TASC’s award, Peters gave special credit those who shaped his early years, and who instilled in him a sense of obligation to do good in the world.

“Whatever are our accomplishments, no matter how grand or modest, they aren’t ours alone,” he said, sharing stories of how he was influenced and inspired by his mother, his grandmother, an influential second grade teacher, an inspiring college mentor, and his wife of 50 years, Beverly Peters.

“We are obligated to serve, we are obligated to support good work,” he said. “And that is why I am proud today to be in this room with you—because you are engaged in important work, you are supporting work that will determine whether children across Illinois will survive… and how well they will survive, and whether we will have a society in which we can take pride.”

Jessica Nickel Accepts TASC’s 2017 Public Voice Leadership Award

Creating such a society is also the life’s work of Jessica Nickel, TASC’s 2017 Public Voice Award Honoree and founder of the national Addiction Policy Forum.

Nickel played a critical leadership role in shaping and advancing federal legislation to improve justice and support recovery, including the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, which supports a wide range of responses to addiction, including criminal justice diversion initiatives, and the Second Chance Act, which has transformed the landscape of reentry programs across the country since it was signed into law in 2008.

“I have known Jessica for more than a decade, and from the start, she impressed me with her sense of urgency, her deep commitment, and her unwavering belief that we can – and must – give hope and help to families that are dealing with addiction,” said Rodriguez.

In accepting the award, Nickel noted that the Second Chance Act, co-sponsored by Illinois Congressman Danny K. Davis and Ohio Congressman (now Senator) Rob Portman, came about with the intent to re-envision how people reenter the community after jail and prison. Through this work, Nickel was introduced to TASC leaders Rodriguez, then vice president of TASC; TASC Vice President of Community and Government Affairs George Williams; and Melody Heaps, then president (now retired) of TASC.

“I’m proud of that work, and grateful and proud of the cooperation with TASC,” said Nickel.

Modeling this collaborative model of engagement that propelled the ongoing success of the Second Chance Act, Nickel is dedicated to changing the way society responds to addiction.

“Let’s re-envision how we respond to addiction in this country,” said Nickel. “Instead of playing whack-a-mole with one drug against the other… or playing that sort of favorite child of which response we’re going to work on—treatment or prevention or recovery or criminal justice—let’s put our heads together and think of something different.”

With this commitment, Nickel has assembled leading experts who understand addiction as a public health issue, and, in a short time, has built a strong and growing coalition of families, advocates, policymakers, community leaders, and corporations who share in this commitment.

“Through her voice, her organizing ability, her passion, and her impressive, first-hand knowledge of how to make major policy changes happen, Jessica is helping communities across the country make strides against addiction and its consequences. She’s bringing forth practical solutions… to help families and communities that want to know what works and what they can do,” said Rodriguez.

Among the luncheon guests were three past TASC Leadership Award recipients: retired WGN News Anchor Robert Jordan (2013 Public Voice Leadership Award), Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (2011 Public Voice Leadership Award), and Heaps (2010 Justice Leadership Award), who founded TASC as an Illinois nonprofit organization in 1976.

Also recognized were TASC’s 2017 event sponsors: elite sponsor Alkermes; select sponsors: John Greene and William Blair; and friend of TASC sponsors Yes Lifecycle Marketing, Gateway, BMO Harris Bank, HAS, Janssen, Meridian Health, and Rosecrance; with thanks also to numerous advocate sponsors, community sponsors, and raffle prize donors.

2017 TASC Leadership Awards Luncheon — Back row (l. to r.): Sue Thau, Toni Preckwinkle, Jessica Nickel, Pam Rodriguez. Front row: Howard Peters IV, Howard Peters III, Beverly Peters. (Photo by Uk Studio, Inc.)


2015 TASC Leadership Awards Luncheon to Honor Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, Entrepreneur Bill O’Donnell

(Chicago) – With a commitment to reducing incarceration and increasing opportunities for recovery, TASC will honor two leading voices in these movements at the agency’s 2015 Leadership Awards Luncheon on December 10.

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart will receive TASC’s 2015 Justice Leadership Award and entrepreneur and recovery advocate William T. O’Donnell, Jr. will receive the agency’s 2015 Public Voice Leadership Award.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois will serve as the presenting sponsor of this year’s event, which supports TASC’s services across Illinois.

Dart is a national leader in calling for an end to the over-incarceration of people with mental health and substance use problems, advocating instead for available treatment and supports in the community.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, TASC's 2015 Justice Leadership Award Honoree

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, TASC’s 2015 Justice Leadership Award Honoree.

Elected sheriff in 2006, Dart is responsible for the nation’s largest single site jail, which daily detains thousands of individuals who have mental health and substance use disorders. Until a few years ago, nine out of 10 jail detainees lacked healthcare coverage, thereby significantly hindering their access to community-based treatment. When Medicaid eligibility was expanded in 2013 to cover previously uninsured adults, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with TASC and the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, created processes for all individuals coming through the jail to apply for coverage. Since 2013, more than 25,000 people who have come through the Cook County Jail have applied for healthcare coverage, increasing their opportunities to access community-based care before they reach the justice system.

Dart continues to promote collaborative, community-based partnerships and linkages to care for people with complex health issues. Most recently, the sheriff’s office, along with TASC and Heartland Alliance, received a $1M grant from the University of Chicago Urban Labs to develop a Supportive Release Center for people with mental health issues who are exiting the jail.

“Sheriff Dart understands that the criminal justice system was never designed to be a health care provider,” said TASC President Pam Rodriguez. “We support and applaud his commitment to creating more sensible, effective, and dignified societal responses to behavioral health problems.”

Entrepreneur Bill O'Donnell, TASC's 2015 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree

Entrepreneur Bill O’Donnell, TASC’s 2015 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree.

Creating pathways to recovery has been the longtime mission of Bill O’Donnell, who will receive TASC’s Public Voice Leadership Award. A native of Chicago, O’Donnell resides in Wilmette and is managing director of ODE, LLC, an investment and development firm. He began his career with Bally Manufacturing and quickly ascended the corporate ladder, but addiction took its toll. O’Donnell’s subsequent personal journey and rejuvenation in recovery, combined with his business development expertise, led him to found Sierra Tucson in 1983, which he built into a world renowned addiction treatment center and dually licensed psychiatric hospital.

In 1995, O’Donnell also founded Miraval Resort, which has consistently received the highest ratings by industry publications. Along with a being a prominent business leader, he remains a voice for others who struggle with addiction, and also an advocate for family involvement in the treatment and recovery process.

“We are thrilled to be able to recognize Bill as a renowned leader in the treatment field,” said TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca. “From the outset of his work in the field, he understood that addiction is far beyond an individual struggle; it’s a family disease too. By creating clinical programs that include family members in the process, he not only has helped countless people achieve and maintain recovery, but he has helped families become stronger and healthier as well.”

TASC’s 2015 Leadership Awards Luncheon will take place at the Westin Michigan Avenue Chicago on Thursday, December 10 from 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM. Registration is requested by November 19. For sponsorship opportunities and additional information, please click here.

IL State Sen. Mattie Hunter, Walgreens’ Steve Pemberton to Receive TASC 2014 Leadership Awards

State Senator Mattie Hunter, TASC 2014 Justice Leadership Award Honoree

State Senator Mattie Hunter, TASC 2014 Justice Leadership Award Honoree

(Chicago) – Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3) and author and Walgreens executive Steve Pemberton will receive TASC’s 2014 Leadership Awards at the agency’s annual luncheon on December 10. 

“By their leadership and examples, Senator Hunter and Mr. Pemberton show us what public service looks like,” said TASC President Pamela Rodriguez. “They are powerful advocates for children and families, and we are honored to present them with our 2014 leadership awards.”

Senator Hunter, who will receive TASC’s Justice Leadership Award, is a consistent champion for addiction treatment and fair criminal justice policies. As a State Senator since 2003, she has led efforts to assure funding for addiction treatment, especially within challenging fiscal environments. She also chaired the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission and led its investigation of drug policies that have resulted in the over-representation of minorities in Illinois’ courts and prisons.

Most recently, Senator Hunter secured successful passage in the General Assembly of legislation designed to expand the use of criminal justice diversion programs that connect individuals to community-based services. This bill is a step forward in enacting “No Entry” policies to reverse the flood of people with non-violent offenses entering the justice system.

“We are grateful to Senator Hunter for her leadership in confronting tough challenges,” said Rodriguez. “Whether securing funding for human services or advocating for policies that apply justice more fairly, Senator Hunter has been a trusted friend to the families and communities we seek to serve.”

Steve Pemberton, TASC 2014 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree

Steve Pemberton, TASC 2014 Public Voice Leadership Award Honoree

TASC will present its 2104 Public Voice Leadership Award award to Steve Pemberton, chief diversity officer and divisional vice president for Walgreens. Pemberton spent much of his childhood as a ward of the state of Massachusetts. His memoir, A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home (2012) describes his difficult path through foster care and determined search for family.

Pemberton’s story underscores the importance of connected and accountable systems of care, the value in programs and services that protect and support children, and the essential inclusion of opportunities to intervene with parents struggling with substance use disorders or mental illness.

“Mr. Pemberton’s painful childhood journey is one that too many children experience,” said Rodriguez, “and we share in his deep commitment to continually improve the services and systems that affect the lives of vulnerable children.

“There is great hope in his story as well,” she added. “We can also help people come to healing as adults. That is why we do what we do.”

Each year, TASC recognizes outstanding leaders who have demonstrated innovation and courage in addressing some of society’s most pervasive challenges. The agency’s 2014 luncheon will take place Wednesday, December 10 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at The Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

Find out more about the luncheon and sponsorship opportunities and order tickets online. Please call (312) 573-8201 for additional information.

Christopher Kennedy Lawford: Addiction Doesn’t Discriminate; Opportunities for Treatment, Recovery Shouldn’t Either

(Chicago, IL) — “I was born in a family where addiction doesn’t just run – it gallops. We had fame, we had power, we had wealth. What we didn’t understand is that addiction ignores all that.”

This was the life of Christopher Kennedy Lawford, who shared his story of addiction recovery with more than 300 guests at TASC’s 2012 Leadership Awards Luncheon on December 12.

Lawford was in Chicago to accept TASC’s Public Voice Leadership Award, presented annually to an organization or person who has advanced the dialogue around addiction recovery and related public health issues. TASC also presented the agency’s signature Justice Leadership Award to Cook County Presiding Judge Paul P. Biebel, Jr. (Please see article highlighting Judge Biebel’s remarks.)

“As far-reaching and devastating as addiction and mental illness are, recovery is much more powerful,” said TASC Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Palanca in introducing Lawford. “Our 2012 Public Voice Award recipient is an individual who is well acquainted with the journey of recovery.”

Son of actor Peter Lawford and Patricia Kennedy Lawford, and nephew of John F. Kennedy, Christopher Kennedy Lawford’s struggles with addiction are detailed in his bestselling book, Symptoms of Withdrawal. With more than 26 years in recovery now, Lawford is engaged in worldwide efforts to erode the stigma surrounding addiction, expand access to evidence-based treatment services, and promote the societal benefits of recovery. His latest work, Recover to Live: Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction, has just been released.

In a luncheon ballroom filled with judges, service providers, community partners, individual and corporate donors, and TASC staff, Lawford’s remarks drew a standing ovation. Here is part of what he said:

It is an honor to be here and to be given this award by TASC, whom I’ve known about for a long, long time… I hear about them from my friends at the White House and the UN and everywhere. To be in this room and receiving an award from you is really meaningful.

From the moment I found drugs and alcohol, the only thing that mattered to me for the next 17 years was where I was going to get my next drink or my next drug. The world was suddenly not so scary. Better living through better chemistry became my credo. I didn’t feel like there was anything I couldn’t accomplish if my medicine cabinet – or yours – was fully stocked. Of course, it was an illusion.

Drug addiction took me to three jails and three intensive care units; landed me in newspapers and on the evening news; damaged and permanently scarred my liver, heart and lungs; significantly reduced the opportunities that I was lucky to be born with; drove away most of the worthwhile people in my life, leaving behind a posse of lower companions of drug dealers, pharmacists, and bartenders; and killed my best friend and my father. This is the road for many confronting the disease of drug addiction. I should have died many times but I didn’t. With desire and access to treatment, I lived and found my way into recovery.

Today, I speak out so people know that addiction is an equal opportunity disease, that recovery from addiction is possible, that recovery is not just about staying away from a drink, drug, or behavior a day at a time, but also about restoring and enhancing the lives of those afflicted as well as the lives of those around them. And I speak out to urge others to do the same, because the awareness that recovery is possible, along with the spreading knowledge that science has proven—that addiction is a brain illness—will help to dispel many of the myths, and much of the stigma surrounding diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

If you remember only three things from what I say today, it should be the following:

The first is that in order to make a difference in the lives of those suffering with drug dependency, we need to address the structural and moral obstacles that stigmatize and discriminate against those who need our assistance.

Second is that we know drug treatment works. There is an undeniable body of research, evidence, and practice that can make a difference, if allowed. Drug treatment services should be available to all, just as we treat other chronic illnesses.

Third, it is imperative that we stay focused on and address the underlying societal causes and conditions that lock people in the hopelessness and despair of the addictive cycle, keeping their recovery illusory and unattainable.

The challenge before us lies in creating long-term, sustainable change to provide a means of helping those who need it most.

I applaud those of you on the front lines of TASC and other agencies, battling to bring services to those in need. Drug dependence is destroying the very fabric of society, present and future. So why, given the tremendous need and availability of proven treatment protocols, do we continue to struggle with having treatment investments commensurate to their importance? We need to fundamentally see the issue of addiction through a different set of lenses. We need to see it devoid of stigma and discrimination. We need to see it as a health issue, and not just a criminal justice issue… We need to reject the dichotomy of treatment versus enforcement, since we know that done right, the criminal justice and health systems can work together harmoniously. We’ve seen that here today with the work of Judge Biebel and TASC.

Punishment and prison rarely work as an effective response to someone with a drug addiction, and can have lasting impacts on the family. We know that drug problems don’t discriminate and can happen to anyone and any family. Drug users are often among society’s most scorned and shunned. Many in our world believe those struggling with addiction have no willpower or are morally noncommittal, are a drain on our society. I’ll tell you what. You show me someone who has battled a drug dependency for five, ten, fifteen, twenty years, and lived to tell their story, and I’ll show you one tough, willful, committed human being whose recovery can be a benefit to society.

The journey to recovery is not linear or predictable, and it isn’t easy, but it is possible, and millions have and will recover, but they need our help and our understanding. They need access to programs that are based on evidence, not on ideology. They need to know that they can reach out without fear, ridicule, persecution, or worse – violence. They need to know that they can once again become productive members of society, that society values them and wants them back. We must build awareness that sustained and positive outcomes from treatment and assistance requires the community to accept people back into their community, and understand the importance of meaningful work as a critical part of that acceptance. There are many who have been saved from the ravages of addiction and return to productive and meaningful lives.

My journey to recovery started well before I stopped using drugs. It began when I knew I had a problem and began my struggle to do something about it. I may have appeared lost, but from the moment I understood what my problem was, I was looking for the solution. The fact that it took someone like me—who had all the resources and desire to get better as long as it did—reflects the immense challenge facing anyone with the courage and the will to confront this illness.

In many places in our world, there is little to no access to quality care, and where there is, it often lacks the effective integration within the health care system. As a result, people face considerable gaps in services and barriers to accessing the help they need.

It took me nine years of trying before I found my way to recovery. During that time, I tried everything possible to stop using drugs and alcohol and nothing had worked. And if you had met me back then, you might have thought to yourself, “You know, that Chris Lawford sure is a nice guy, and he’s tried really hard to do something about his problem, but he’s probably going to die.” Indeed, this is often the headline related to addiction – that any effort or investment is squandered… Standing here today before you, 26 years in recovery, I can tell you emphatically that this is not true.

Access to treatment and care doesn’t only make good health sense, it makes good economic sense. Put simply, treatment improves health outcomes and fosters healthier individuals, families, and communities while lowering the social and economic costs of addiction… An individual in recovery contributes to society economically and in many other ways. One of the most profound ways occurs in families… One of the great gifts of recovery is breaking the chain of addiction in a family. A father or mother in recovery will have a profound effect on what kind of life their children will have, on whether or not their dreams will come true.

We simply cannot ignore the complex interplay between biology and life experiences when it comes to this illness. One would not look at my life and necessarily think of the underlying societal stresses that contribute to drug dependence, but they were there.

My uncles John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy were political figures, but they were family members first. Both of them were murdered. And that violence contributed to the onset of my drug dependence as well as others in my family. I was 12 years old when my uncle Bobby was killed running for the presidency of this country. I had no idea at that time that a 12-year-old kid with a genetic predisposition toward this illness, who suffers trauma in their adolescence, is much more susceptible to this disease later in life.

There are millions of children throughout the world who are victimized by societal forces they have no power to control – forces that can have a great impact on whether they become addicts in later life.

Addiction may be an equal opportunity disease, but that does not mean that those who recover have the same equality of opportunity when it comes to the life they come back to in recovery. There are millions of us who are not only ravaged by addiction, but who are also ravaged by the circumstances of their lives… There is much to do. I am committed in my work to develop innovative ways of bringing better circumstances to more people in recovery, to raise awareness, reduce stigma and discrimination, calling for society to treat this illness the same way it treats other chronic diseases, while making that treatment affordable and universal.

I am grateful to TASC for their courage, their leadership, and their vision when it comes to confronting this most complex health issue. Their example challenges and inspires me and I hope many others in the world to do more, and to do better. I have no doubt that if we do, we will impact many lives.

My Uncle Jack Kennedy, President Kennedy, said the true measure of a nation is its success in fulfilling the promise of a better life for each of its members. Let this be our measure too, to strive to fulfill the promise of a better life through access to treatment and care for the millions suffering from drug dependence throughout the world.

Christopher Kennedy Lawford Accepts TASC's 2012 Public Voice Leadership Award.  Left to right: TASC Executive VP Peter Palanca, Christopher Kennedy Lawford, TASC President Pamela Rodriguez, TASC Board Chair Jim Durkan

Christopher Kennedy Lawford Accepts TASC’s 2012 Public Voice Leadership Award. Left to right: TASC Executive VP Peter Palanca, Christopher Kennedy Lawford, TASC President Pamela Rodriguez, TASC Board Chair Jim Durkan

Christopher Kennedy Lawford, Judge Paul Biebel Accept TASC Leadership Awards; Highlight Necessity of Drug Treatment, Mental Health Treatment, and Recovery Services

(Chicago, IL) — TASC’s 2012 Leadership Awards Luncheon honored two individuals whose remarks enthralled the room of more than 300 guests at the Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago on December 12.

Cook County Presiding Judge Paul P. Biebel, Jr. and Christopher Kennedy Lawford accepted TASC’s 2012 leadership awards for their strong and persistent support of programs and policies that advance opportunities for health and recovery. This article is the first of three that will be posted this week, with coming posts featuring substantial portions of Judge Beibel’s and Chris Lawford’s informative and inspiring remarks.

TASC Board Chairman Jim Durkan opened TASC’s annual affair with appreciation for “individuals gathered from diverse backgrounds, occupations, and beliefs, coming together to celebrate the work of TASC and the wonderful reality of lasting and real recovery.”

Moving stories of recovery were shared in a video created for the event.  Raymond, a former TASC client who was incarcerated multiple times before finding recovery, said, “I have two sons that I had not seen during the horrors of my addiction. TASC helped me reunite with my sons.”

Another former client, Sara, spoke of the how an understanding of past trauma helped her on her path to recovery and a new life. “The things that I’ve done in my past don’t have to be the things that define me today,” she said.

Former client Victor added that going through TASC isn’t easy, but, “It’s not the end of the world. As a matter of fact, it’s the beginning of life.”

The successes of thousands of TASC clients across Illinois are made possible by the efforts of multiple individuals and entities in Illinois and nationally. TASC President Pamela Rodriguez thanked TASC’s many partners, from service providers to justice administrators to policymakers, along with the agency’s staff and board of directors. She offered express gratitude for TASC’s generous donors, including lead sponsors HAS (Healthcare Alternative Systems), Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, and BMO Harris Bank.


Left to right: TASC VP and CFO Roy Fesmire; TASC VP of Operations Carolyn Ross; Christopher Kennedy Lawford; Judge Paul P. Biebel, Jr.; TASC President Pamela Rodriguez; TASC VP of Community and Government Affairs George Williams; TASC Executive VP and COO Peter Palanca

In presenting TASC’s Justice Leadership Award to Judge Biebel, Rodriguez explained that award recipients are men and women who fight for fairness, embrace new learning, create new partnerships, and lead change.

“I personally have known Judge Biebel for more than a decade,” she said, “and have seen first-hand the grace and care with which he administers the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, the largest unified court system in the United States.

“He supported felony mental health courts before anyone else in the country… He commits himself to understanding neuroscience and the complex variables that contribute to addiction, mental illness, and criminal behavior, and he pursues science-based solutions that serve both public safety and public health. Most importantly, he demonstrates a genuine care for those who come through his courtrooms, and a commitment to fairness and rehabilitation as key elements of ensuring justice.”

Accepting TASC’s award, Judge Biebel offered statistics illustrating the magnitude of challenges that addiction, mental illness, and trauma place on the courts. For example, seven out of ten Cook County arrestees test positive for illicit drugs. In the Cook County Jail, among a population of around 9,000, there are more than 1,700 people on psychotropic medication. In response to these challenges, said Judge Biebel, “We in Cook County have created perhaps the most ambitious and far-reaching problem-solving court system of any county in America. We’re very proud of that and we’re very grateful for our wonderful partners in that effort, and one of the most important being our friends at TASC.”

Following a standing ovation to honor Judge Biebel, TASC Executive Vice President and COO Peter Palanca introduced Christopher Kennedy Lawford as TASC’s 2012 Public Voice Leadership Award recipient. “For change to happen anywhere people must speak up,” Palanca said. “This is particularly true regarding issues that often carry stigma—such as substance abuse, mental illness, racial injustice, discrimination, and criminal justice involvement.”

As the son of actor Peter Lawford and nephew of John F. Kennedy, Christopher Kennedy Lawford grew up in the public eye. With both a genetic predisposition to addiction and a childhood in which two of his beloved uncles were murdered, he eventually succumbed to his own addiction. But Lawford’s story doesn’t end there. He has been in recovery for more than 26 years, and now works in partnership with government, businesses, and social service organizations worldwide to expand access to addiction and mental health treatment and research, and to promote the positive power and reality of recovery.

“Drug dependence is destroying the very fabric of society, present and future,” Lawford said. “So why, given the tremendous need and availability of proven treatment protocols, do we continue to struggle with having treatment investments commensurate to their importance? We need to fundamentally see the issue of addiction through a different set of lenses. We need to see it devoid of stigma and discrimination. We need to see it as a health—and not just a criminal justice—issue.

“We need to reject the dichotomy of treatment versus enforcement, since we know that done right, the criminal justice and health systems can work together harmoniously. We’ve seen that here today with the work of Justice Biebel and TASC.”

Lawford shared his personal journey of trauma, addiction, and recovery. He emphasized the importance of reducing societal stigma and discrimination, which persist as barriers to effective diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.  Everyone in the room rose to applaud as Lawford accepted his award. The luncheon ended with TASC’s popular drawing for donated raffle prizes, and both Judge Biebel and Chris Lawford stayed long afterwards to speak with guests.

TASC offers sincere thanks to our gracious honorees, all our luncheon guests, our board of directors, staff, and our many donors for your very generous support of our work.  Please mark your calendars for our 2013 luncheon, which will take place in Chicago on December 11.

Judge Paul Biebel and Christopher Kennedy Lawford to Receive TASC’s 2012 Leadership Awards

(Chicago, IL)TASC, Inc. is pleased to announce that Cook County Judge Paul P. Biebel, Jr. and author Christopher Kennedy Lawford will be honored at the organization’s annual Leadership Awards Luncheon on December 12.

Judge Paul P. Biebel, Jr.

TASC will present its Justice Leadership Award to The Honorable Paul P. Biebel, Jr. for championing collaboration and science as critical tools for advancing improved criminal justice practices. As presiding judge of the Criminal Division in Cook County, the largest unified court system in the United States, Judge Biebel engages community service providers and clinical experts to help confront the pervasive challenges that addiction and mental health problems impose on justice systems. He has led the implementation of problem-solving courts and clinically specialized probation for people with substance abuse and mental health problems, and continues to engage health scientists and community partners in addressing the complex variables that contribute to criminal behavior. Judge Biebel is widely respected for his commitment to science-based solutions that serve both public safety and public health.

Christopher Kennedy Lawford

TASC will present its Public Voice Leadership Award to Christopher Kennedy Lawford for his tireless work to promote recovery worldwide. Committed to bringing forth knowledge and enlightenment over myths and misinformation, he works in partnership with international health organizations, the US government, Fortune 500 companies, and numerous non-profit groups to advance the dialogue around addiction and other complex public health issues.  In recovery from addiction for more than 26 years, he is the author of two New York Times bestselling books, Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption (2005) and Moments of Clarity: Voices from the Front Lines of Addiction and Recovery (2009). He has also published Healing Hepatitis C (2009) and his newest work, Recover to Live, Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction, is forthcoming.

TASC serves adults and youth across Illinois who have alcohol, drug, or mental health problems and who are involved in courts, jails, prisons, or foster care. Founded in Cook County in 1976, TASC has a long tradition of client advocacy and success. Individuals who receive the agency’s case management services, including continuing supervision and support, are twice as successful in completing treatment those who do not receive these services.

TASC’s December 12 luncheon will take place at the Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago. To help sponsor the 2012 luncheon or to reserve tickets, please click here.