Melody Heaps Gets SAAS National “Excellence in Leadership” Awards

(Springfield, IL) — The State Associations of Addiction Services (SASS) bestowed its “Excellence in Leadership” on Illinois TASC President Melody Heaps in Orlando, Florida on June 2008.

“The SASS award recognizes an individual who exemplifies excellence in leadership, one who advocates nationally in behalf of addictions treatment and prevention,” said Sara Moscato Howe, CEO of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association.

Howe, right, nominated Heaps and presented the award in Orlando.

Heaps is founder and president of TASC, Inc., an independent, not-for-profit agency that provides access to treatment for certain drug-involved individuals in Illinois who are referred by criminal justice, corrections, juvenile justice, and child welfare systems. TASC conducts clinical assessments, matches clients with appropriate community-based treatment programs, and provides ongoing client monitoring and recovery management services.

Under Ms. Heaps’ leadership, TASC has grown from a small pilot program in Cook County (IL) to a statewide organization that serves more than 20,000 individuals in Illinois each year. TASC also conducts research, advances public policy, and provides training and consultation services nationally and internationally.

Recognized as an expert on improving system responses to drugs and crime, Ms. Heaps has served on numerous federal, state, and local task forces, committees, and councils dealing with criminal justice, substance abuse, child welfare, and other social issues.

She was asked in 2003 to serve on the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Advisory Committee on the Treatment of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction. In 2001 she was appointed to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) National Demand Reduction Advisory Council, and in 1996 was selected for the Drug Control Research, Data and Evaluation Committee of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Additionally, Heaps has been appointed to a number of committees and councils for the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), including the Technical Expert Panel on “Financing, Cost and Access to Substance Abuse Treatment” in 2001, Partners for Recovery in 1999, and the National Advisory Council in 1994.

A committee appointed by the SAAS President reviewed the award nominations and recommended that Heaps receive the award.


Blagojevich Administration Reports Drug Treatment Helps Push Illinois Prison Recidivism Rates to Historic Lows

Chicago, IL) — Since fiscal year 2004, Illinois has successfully rolled back recidivism rates from record levels, reduced the rate of new crime among parolees, slowed the prison population growth rate, and saved taxpayers more than $60 million, according to new state statistics.

Governor Rod Blagojevich and the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) reported at a press conference in Chicago on May 19 that the number of new convictions for crimes among parolees has decreased by over 18% from 4,567 in FY04 to 3,742 in FY07, the largest decline in state history.

Additionally, Governor Blagojevich and IDOC report:

* Total arrests among parolees experienced a 23% decline from FY04 to FY07.

* Participants in the Sheridan Drug Prison & Reentry program, which has been called a national model, have exhibited a 40% recidivism rate, lower than comparison groups.

* The prison population has increased by only 4.5% since the end of FY02, which is the slowest rate of growth over any similar time frame since the Illinois Department of Corrections was established in FY70.

* Reduction in repeat crimes has saved taxpayers an estimated $64 million in prison costs since 2004.

The figures stand in stark contrasts to Fiscal Years 1989 – 2005 when the state prison population doubled from 22,000 to 44,000, and the recidivism rate increased to nearly 55% — meaning that 55% of all inmates released from prison returned to prison within three years.

“The State of Illinois is leading the nation in its efforts to reduce crime and recidivism.” said Joan Petersilia, Professor Criminology, University of California, Irvine. “This is the type of progress that has required tremendous leadership by Governor Blagojevich and partnerships among both corrections and social service officials.”

“The reduced recidivism of Sheridan parolees testifies to the value of well-funded of drug treatment and the need for continued drug treatment investment,” said IADDA CEO Sara Moscato Howe.

Number of Illinois Residents Waiting in 2008 for Alcohol, Drug Abuse Treatment Jumps 17%, Report Says

(Springfield, IL) – The estimated number of Illinois residents waiting for alcohol and drug abuse assessment and treatment at state-financed facilities in 2008 rose 17 percent in, according to a report released at a press conference in Springfield on May 1.

The report by the Survey Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago surveyed 106 Illinois community treatment providers in December 2007 and revealed 7,541 people were waiting for some form of treatment, up from 6,467 in March 2007.

“Substance abuse treatment works best when an individual is ready,” said Sara Moscato Howe, right, CEO of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association. “Turning people away at the door is unacceptable and only leads to crises for the person and the community.”

Moscato Howe said the state must invest $41 million this year to provide care to the growing number of untreated Illinois residents, to decrease wait times, and to provide relief to community service providers burdened by escalating expenses.

State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston), left, is backing Moscato Howe’s call for additional money. Schoenberg is sponsoring legislation, S.B. 2886, to boost funding by $41 million in this year’s budget.

“Illinois is losing the battle against drug and alcohol abuse by failing to care for those who need treatment,” said Schoenberg. “We must stop the growing number of people forced on to waiting lists. We must be able to provide services for those who need help by adequately funding substance abuse treatment and prevention.”

Across the state, northern Illinois has the most people, 2,168, waiting for care. The fewest, 830, is in southern Illinois. The report also estimated that 595 youth are waiting for treatment. Central Illinois has the most youth waiting for treatment with 182 on waiting lists.

The funding legislation’s fate is uncertain.

Advocates, Sen. Steans Push Content Warning Labels on Alcoholic Energy Drinks

(Chicago, IL) — Advocates from the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association (IADDA) and State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), (below), pushed their legislative plan, Senate Bill 2472, at a press conference on March 24 to require warning labels on alcoholic energy drinks, such as Sparks, Tilt, and Bud Extra.

“Miller Brewing and Anheuser-Busch are producing drinks whose packaging is indistinguishable from their nonalcoholic, teen-focused energy beverages,” said IADDA CEO Sara Moscato Howe.

Alcoholic energy drinks, with brand names like Sparks, Tilt, and Bud Extra, contain not only alcohol but also caffeine and other stimulants.

Moscato Howe cited the Tilt brand as a typical example of packaging that obscures alcohol content. Tilt packages its alcoholic energy drinks in a brightly colored and youthfully designed container that resemble nonalcoholic energy drinks (right). Additionally, the Tilt container displays the alcohol content in fine print.

“The Tilt container—the size, shape, hip graphics, and bright colors—is similar to nonalcoholic energy drinks and displays its alcohol content in small print on the container that can confuse store clerks, parents and police alike,” said Moscato Howe. “Our legislation mandates clear warning alcohol content labels.”

Sen. Steans and IADDA have a powerful ally on the issue–Illinois Attorney Lisa Madigan. A few weeks ago, Madigan told the Springfield State Journal-Register that the alcoholic energy drinks should be banned altogether. Additionally, Madigan joined 30 Attorneys General in a joint letter in August 2007 to the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau expressing “serious concern” on the drinks’ marketing practices.

State Sens. Mattie Hunter, Maggie Crotty, Lou Viverito, Christine Radogno, Jacqueline Collins, Susan Garrett and Iris Martinez have joined as legislative co-sponsors.

Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association Board Chair, Alan Sandusky, speaks at Steans’ press conference.