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posted: 7/14/2014 7:29 AM

Elk Grove resident honored by White House drug policy office

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  • Elk Grove Village resident Pamela Rodriguez (left) and Melody Heaps (right) were selected as Advocates for Action in 2014 by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for their commitment to reforming the criminal justice system to break the cycle of addiction, arrest, and incarceration. Screen Capture, WhiteHouse.gov

      Elk Grove Village resident Pamela Rodriguez (left) and Melody Heaps (right) were selected as Advocates for Action in 2014 by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for their commitment to reforming the criminal justice system to break the cycle of addiction, arrest, and incarceration. Screen Capture, WhiteHouse.gov

 
David Ormsby

(Elk Grove, IL) – Elk Grove Village resident Pamela Rodriguez, a top Illinois criminal justice reform advocate, was honored earlier this year by the White House drug policy office and spotlighted in the agency's video released this week explaining the government's new drug strategy.

Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Chicago-based Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities and TASC president emeritus Melody Heaps are featured in the 2014 National Drug Control Strategy, released July 9 by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

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Rodriguez, TASC's chief since 2009, and Heaps, who founded the agency and led it for 33 years, were honored at the White House in March as Advocates for Action for their national leadership in "advancing system-wide justice interventions for people with substance use disorders."

Advocates for Action is the federal drug agency's initiative to recognize individuals' achievements in improving the health and safety of their communities by combating the cycle of drug use and crime.

"Pamela Rodriguez and Melody Heaps are re-designing the criminal justice system to break the cycle of addiction, arrest, and incarceration," says the introduction to the new video on the White House website.

As witnesses to the societal impact of illicit drugs and criminal justice responses over the past 40 years, Rodriguez and Heaps provide a concise history of these issues in the 11-minute video.

In the video, the criminal justice advocates discuss the origins of TASC, the generational influences of drugs and crime in communities, and the diversion of people with substance use and mental health problems from the justice system into community health services.

Rodriguez and Heaps also speak to the role that the new Affordable Care Act presents in reducing rates of incarceration and recidivism by increasing access to behavioral health treatment.

In addition, the president's drug office features the work of Rodriguez's organization in supporting "systemic change via evidence-based sentencing" in the national strategy's fourth chapter: Break the Cycle of Drug Use, Crime, Delinquency, and Incarceration.

With funding from federal drug office, and along with a team of national partners, Rodriguez says, "TASC and its Center for Health and Justice are working with national law enforcement leaders to provide training on the science of addiction and how this understanding can inform police practices and policies."

The National Drug Control Strategy, which is published annually, provides strategies and models for reducing illicit drug use and its consequences.

davidormsby@davidormsby.com

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