• Mark Your Calendar: April 26th is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

    This Earth Day, we encourage all Americans to take action to protect the planet while protecting their health by making plans to participate in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday, April 26th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

    Many prescription drugs that lie unused in home medicine cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Research has shown that about 70 percent of those who abused prescription pain relievers in the past year obtained them from family or friends – and often from the home medicine cabinet – the last time they used them.

    The environmentally responsible disposal of these drugs is a pillar of the Obama Administration’s plan to prevent prescription drug abuse. While you may have heard flushing your old pills down the toilet is the best way to dispose of them, that’s not necessarily true. Medicines that go down the drain end up in our water supply, where they can damage the environment. Saturday’s Take-Back Day is a convenient opportunity to get rid of unneeded medicine and prevent these drugs from entering our water supply.

    Locate a collection site near you.

    In 2010, approximately 100 people died every day from opioid drug overdoses, and prescription opioids were involved in 43 percent of those overdose deaths. Opioid drug abuse has devastated thousands of communities across the country. As ONDCP Acting Director Michael Botticelli recently put it, “This is an epidemic of the medicine cabinet.”

    If you have unneeded or expired prescription drugs at home, we strongly encourage you to drop them off at a safe, legal collection site in your neighborhood on Saturday, April 26, as part of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

    Take-Back Days are vital to supporting the Administration’s efforts to reduce the accessibility of illegal drugs and combat substance abuse. They provide a responsible and convenient way for people to properly dispose of their prescription drugs, and they help educate the public about the potential for their abuse. Since its launch in September 2010, the Take-Back Day initiative has resulted in the collection and proper disposal of 3.4 million pounds of medication – including 647,211 pounds collected during last year’s event.

    The Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act, passed by Congress in 2010, requires DEA to draft regulations that will provide for more convenient disposal of prescription drugs.  The new rule is expected to be issued before the end of the year and paves the way for an easier and environmentally responsible means of disposal in communities across the country.

    This year’s Take-Back Day will occur nationwide from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 26th. Disposal sites will be set up in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories.  Find a take-back location near you today.


  • Announcing Another Tool to Save Lives

    Today, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new drug that will build upon our work to turn back the tide of our nation’s overdose epidemic. This new product – Evzio - works by delivering a single dose of naloxone via a hand-held auto-injector that can be carried in a pocket or stored in a medicine chest for rapid access by first responders and caregivers responding to an opioid overdose. 
    Why is this so important?  Naloxone is a lifesaving overdose reversal drug that rapidly reverses the effects of opioid overdose and is currently the standard treatment for overdose.  This product is easier to administer than naloxone products that must be administered via syringe and is similar to an epi-pen. 
    The FDA’s approval of another overdose reversal drug could not come at a more urgent time.   Drug overdose deaths, driven largely by prescription drug overdose, are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States – surpassing motor vehicle crashes.
    There are no silver bullet solutions to our nation’s overdose epidemic. Prevention, treatment, and smart on crime efforts each play a vital role in protecting public health and safety in America.  Working together, we can save lives and strengthen our nation’s ability to prosper.

  • Join Us for Launch of the Updated Viral Hepatitis Action Plan on Thursday, April 3

    This is a cross-post from AIDS.gov. The original post can be found here
    Next Thursday, April 3, 2014, we will launch the three-year update (2014-2016) of the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis. The plan provides a framework around which both federal and nonfederal stakeholders from many sectors can engage to strengthen the nation’s response to viral hepatitis. The event will be streamed online live from HHS headquarters in Washington, DC, so that as many federal, state, and community-based partners across the country as possible can participate.
    Please join us for the launch event, which can be viewed live online at www.hhs.gov/live on Thursday, April 3, 2014 from 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM (Eastern). Invite others to watch with you so you can talk about how you can work together in your community to improve viral hepatitis prevention, screening, and treatment.
    The launch event is the culmination of efforts by colleagues from across the Department of Health and Human Services as well as at the Departments of Justice, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs who have worked within their respective agencies and offices as well as with one another to develop this framework for focused activity by both federal and nonfederal stakeholders. Federal colleagues have identified more than 150 important actions their agencies and offices will undertake between 2014 and 2016 across six priority areas.
    More than 100 nonfederal stakeholders shared thoughts, general principles, and specific recommendations that helped to shape the renewed plan over the course of its development.  A notable feature of the plan is a list of potential opportunities for non-federal stakeholders that would promote successful implementation. These implementation opportunities make it crystal-clear that achieving the goals of this national plan will require the time, talent, and energy of a broad mix of partners from across all sectors of society. The launch event will feature two panels – governmental and community – that will discuss, in practical terms, implementation challenges and opportunities as well as remarks by Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, MD, MPH.

    The updated plan organizes actions around the following six priority areas:

    1:  Educating Providers and Communities to Reduce Viral Hepatitis-related Health Disparities
    Confront viral hepatitis by breaking the silence.

    2:  Improving Testing, Care, and Treatment to Prevent Liver Disease and Cancer

    Take full advantage of existing tools.

    3:  Strengthening Surveillance to Detect Viral Hepatitis Transmission and Disease

    Collect accurate and timely information to get the job done.

    4:  Eliminating Transmission of Vaccine-Preventable Viral Hepatitis

    Take full advantage of vaccines that can prevent hepatitis A and B.

    5:  Reducing Viral Hepatitis Associated with Drug Use

    Stop the spread of viral hepatitis associated with drug use.

    6:  Protecting Patients and Workers From Health Care-Associated Viral Hepatitis

    Quality health care is safe health care

    The day of the launch event, the updated Viral Hepatitis Action Plan and other information will be posted to the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan page hosted by aids.gov.

    Please join us for this event to learn more and help us kick-off this renewed plan that can improve our nation’s response to viral hepatitis. Together, we can prevent new infections and save many lives.

    Dr. Ronald Valdiserri is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases and Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy.


  • Recovery Movement Endorsed by United Nations

    A resolution on the importance of recovery proposed by the United States at the 57th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was approved on March 21st in Vienna, Austria.  This resolution marks the first time in the more than 50-year history of the global anti-drug regime that the concept of recovery was formally accepted and supported by United Nations Member States.

    Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli said: “This is a historic moment.  For too long, the recovery movement has gone without a voice in the global conversation about drug policy.  Talking about recovery, exchanging experiences and programs, and sharing successes at international forums like the Commission on Narcotic Drugs is a critical part of a public health approach to preventing and treating substance use disorders and reducing the global drug problem. The resolution codifies the commitment of countries to decrease the stigma associated with substance use disorders and to address them like other chronic health conditions.”

    Mr. Botticelli further noted his appreciation for the support for the resolution provided by many nations, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, and also for the assistance and advice provided by the many American and international non-governmental organizations that were present in Vienna for the CND.

    The resolution, entitled Supporting Recovery from Substance Use Disorders, recognizes that substance use disorders can result in chronic relapsing conditions and that recovery support initiatives help to prevent relapse, facilitate re-entry into treatment when needed, and promote long-term recovery outcomes.  The resolution also calls for an end to stigma, marginalization, and discrimination against those in recovery; promotes international exchanges on best practices related to recovery support initiatives; and encourages the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to disseminate globally information about evidence-based recovery support initiatives.  The resolution, which was co-sponsored by a number of countries, was approved at the UNODC meeting on Friday, March 21, 2014. 

  • President Obama Announces Douglas M. Brooks, MSW, as Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy

    Today, President Obama announced the appointment of Douglas M. Brooks, MSW, as the Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP). A leading HIV/AIDS policy expert, Douglas most recently served as Senior Vice President for Community, Health, and Public Policy at the Justice Resource Institute (JRI). As the Director of ONAP, he will lead the Administration’s work to reduce new HIV infections, improve health outcomes for people living with HIV, and eliminate HIV health disparities in the United States.

    “Douglas’s policy expertise combined with his extensive experience working in the community makes him uniquely suited to the task of helping to achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach,” President Obama said. “I look forward to having him lead our efforts from the White House.”

    A component of the White House Domestic Policy Council, ONAP coordinates the ongoing implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the HIV Care Continuum initiative, while working together with public and private partners to advance the federal response to HIV/AIDS. ONAP also works with the White House National Security Council, the State Department’s Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, and international bodies to ensure that America’s response to the global pandemic is fully integrated with prevention, care, and treatment efforts around the world. Through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) initiative, the U.S. has made enormous progress in responding to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, working with countries heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS to help expand access to treatment, care, and prevention.

    Brooks, a person living with HIV, was most recently the Senior Vice President for Community, Health, and Public Policy at JRI, a health and human service agency based in Boston. He served as executive director of the Sidney Borum Jr. Community Health Center at JRI, has managed programs in urban and rural environments and has served as a consultant to domestic and international governments and non-governmental organizations assisting their efforts to serve populations living with and at greatest risk for HIV/AIDS. Brooks was a Visiting Fellow at the McCormack School Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and was Chair of the Board of Trustees of AIDS United in Washington, DC.

    In 2010, Brooks was appointed to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) and served as its liaison to the CDC/HRSA Advisory Committee and successfully led those bodies to achieve the tasks assigned to them in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. He has directly managed federally funded programs, meeting or exceeding targets for Ryan White projects, CDC Prevention for African American/Black youth, a HRSA Special Project of National Significance (SPNS), and a HOPWA SPNS. Brooks received a Master of Social Work degree from Boston University and is a licensed clinical social worker.

  • 10 Reasons to Get Covered, Ten Days left to Enroll

    As of today, there are only 10 days left to enroll in health coverage at healthcare.gov before open enrollment ends on March 31.

    If you haven’t enrolled yet, go to healthcare.gov today to sign up. For most people, the entire application process takes only 15 – 20 minutes.

    For those of us in recovery—and for anyone who loves someone in recovery—health coverage now carries an incredibly important benefit: substance use disorder treatment is covered like any other medical service. The Affordable Care Act ends discriminatory practices that used to limit insurance coverage for behavioral health treatment and services, expanding these services to 62 million Americans.

    Are you covered yet? If not, head over to healthcare.gov apply now.

    We know that substance use disorders are treatable—and recovery is possible. But too many Americans have not been able to get treatment because they didn’t have insurance coverage. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 23 million Americans were in need of treatment for a substance use disorder, and only 2.5 million—about 1-in-10—actually received it.

    That’s why we need your help to make sure your friends, family, and loved ones are covered and have access to health care.

    With just one application, you can also find out whether you qualify for tax credits to help pay for insurance or other free or low-cost coverage options.

    You can compare your options based on price, benefits, quality and other features, and enroll in a plan that fits your needs and your budget.

    To mark the 10 final days of open enrollment, here are 10 reasons to get covered. Check them out, then head over to healthcare.gov.

    10 reasons to get covered:

    1. Mental health and substance abuse disorder services must be covered at parity with medical benefits.
    2. Six in ten uninsured Americans can get coverage for less than $100 a month.
    3. Preventive services like well-woman visits, cancer screenings, flu shots and more cost you nothing out of pocket.
    4. It's illegal for insurance companies to charge more or deny coverage due to a pre-existing condition or cancel your coverage when you get sick.
    5. All plans must cover essential health benefits including outpatient care, hospital visits, prescriptions, and more.
    6. Because accidents happen, and no one is invincible.
    7. Insurance companies can no longer impose yearly limits on coverage for essential health benefits.
    8. No one deserves to go broke just because they get sick.
    9. Because you only live once.
    10. You can apply for coverage online at healthcare.gov. on the phone by calling 1-800-318-2596, in person (find local help here) or by mail (download the application to mail in here) -- the whole process takes most people about 15 to 20 minutes

  • Springtime: A Good Time to Think About our Kids and Steroids

    Now that the ice is melting and sporting activities are getting underway across the country, it is just a matter of time before a high-profile athlete tests positive for appearance and performance enhancing drugs (APEDs).  The media will be catapulted into a fever pitch as disappointed fans become embarrassed for their favorite teams and players.  But, as tragic as those events will be, they pale in comparison to the daily occurrence of this drug use by America’s youth.

    My son, Taylor, died after using anabolic steroids.  A high school baseball player, Taylor was a 6’2”, 180-pound 16-year-old made the decision to use drugs after he was told that he needed to “get bigger” to make the varsity team.  The peer pressure to resort to drugs made Taylor’s decision a relatively easy one.

    Photo: Don Hooton and Taylor Hooton

    As parents, we were surprised to learn that APEDs can be very dangerous and shocked to learn how many kids are using them.  We formed the non-profit Taylor Hooton Foundation to address this issue, raise awareness about how widespread this drug use is, and to educate people about how dangerous steroids and other APEDs can be.  We are now widely recognized as America’s leader on this topic.

    The most recent study[i] focused on youth steroid use, performed at the University of Minnesota, was published 14 months ago. The study of over 2,700 adolescents found that “the use of muscle-enhancing behaviors is higher than has been previously reported and is cause for concern.”  Almost 6 percent (5.9 percent) of boys and 4.4 percent of girls in the middle and high school study admitted to ever using anabolic steroids. 

    On the heels of the Minnesota study, we helped underwrite a national study to determine the knowledge level of the U.S. adult population about this problem.  This 2013 University of Massachusetts-designed household survey[ii] told us that adults are virtually oblivious to the fact that this problem even exists.  Only 17 percent of American adults see steroid use as a big problem among high school athletes.

    Photo: Hooton Foundation's Chalk Talk to 1,300 high school boys (Jan. 2014)

    Frankly, I’m not surprised that adults are so unaware.  Our kids keep this behavior secret and deny their usage, just as their role models do.  While we focus nonstop attention on this subject whenever an elite athlete is accused of doping, few have focused on a more serious component of this behavior: the fact that so many of our children are using these drugs.

    Our mission is to educate America’s youth about the dangers of APEDs and to equip adult leaders to engage.  We’ve delivered education programs to almost 700,000 people.  We now offer eLearning programs that will enable us to reach millions more. 

    Photo: Don Hooton delivers an in-stadium program. 

    To learn more about our education programs, please watch this video and invite us to your school.

    Don serves as President of the Taylor Hooton Foundation and sits on the Foundation’s Board of Directors. He and his family founded the Taylor Hooton Foundation in 2004, the year following the loss of their son Taylor.


  • U.S and Sweden Host Discussions on Drug Policy Reforms under the Existing UN Conventions

    During the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs High Level Segment the Governments of the United States and Sweden met with countries seeking to preserve the existing three UN Drug Control Conventions and to promote public health approaches to drug policy.  The ad hoc meeting was chaired by Michael Botticelli, U.S. Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy, and Maria Larsson, Swedish Minister of Health for Children and the Elderly. Participating countries were Italy, United Kingdom, France, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

    Acting Director Botticelli reiterated United States opposition to both drug legalization and a law enforcement-only, "war on drugs" approach. He explained the U.S. is promoting, both at home and abroad, increased public health and justice sector collaboration to support the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders and save lives.

    Minister Larsson expressed Sweden’s strong support for balanced policies under the three UN Conventions. She also called on governments to provide information to the public and local officials on the serious health and cognitive consequences of the use of marijuana and other drugs.

    The participants also heard a brief presentation by the Director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) on research and science on the disease of addiction that guides U.S. national drug control policy.  Dr. Volkow, who co-chaired the Scientific Consultation meeting organized by the UNODC, discussed the huge advances in neuroscience, which demonstrate that addiction is a brain disease that, like other diseases, can be addressed through evidence-based treatment, including appropriate medications.

    The group agreed to exchange information and to continue to meet on the margins of future international meetings to discuss how to support the Conventions, disseminate science-based information on drug use, and identify interventions that combine the capabilities of the health and justice sectors.

  • Acting Director Botticelli Co-Leads U.S. Delegation to Austria

     Acting Director Michael Botticelli is in Vienna, Austria, to serve as co-head of the United States delegation for the  57th Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the 53-member governing body for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.  The CND is the central policy-making body within the UN dealing with drug matters.

    Mr. Botticelli, along with Department of State Assistant Secretary William Brownfield, will attend the High-Level Review of the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action which focuses on the reduction of both supply of and demand for drugs, together with financial and judicial aspects crucial to addressing this issue. At the conclusion of the High-Level Review, a joint ministerial statement will be issued. 

    Acting Director Botticelli and Assistant Secretary Brownfield are joined by representatives from across the globe, including Queen Silvia of Sweden, UN Deputy Secretary General, Jan Eliasson, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, and many others.

    In addition to participating in this high-level review and bilateral meetings, Mr. Botticelli will host a multilateral discussion on law enforcement and public health collaborations, give remarks at a US-hosted event promoting “smart on crime” policies, and raise awareness about the opioid abuse epidemic in America.

    The Obama Administration is committed to restoring balance to drug policy through a comprehensive, evidence-based public health approach that reduces illicit drug use and its consequences.

    Learn more about our record of drug policy reform. Join the CND conversation on Twitter using #CND2014.

  • Introducing the 2014 Advocates for Action

    Across America, individuals are doing extraordinary things to improve the health and safety of their communities. Whether it is developing groundbreaking programs to break the cycle of drug use and crime, conducting innovative research that expands our understanding of how drugs affect the human body, expanding treatment opportunities, or preventing drug use before it starts, the 2014 ONDCP Advocates for Action are making a difference by reducing drug use and its consequences. 

    Ed Jurith

    Honoring our distinguished colleague.

    This year, we remember and celebrate the contributions of our colleague, Edward Jurith, who passed away in November 2013. During his distinguished career at ONDCP, Mr. Jurith was appointed twice to serve as Acting Director—first by President Clinton in 2001, then by President Obama in 2009.  Since 1994, he also served as ONDCP’s General Counsel, Senior Counsel and Director of Legislative Affairs. Ed also served as the United States Representative and Working Committee Chair for the Education Committee for the World Anti-Doping Agency, an international independent agency composed of sport and government leaders focused on promoting science and research-based guidance to establish a doping-free sporting environment.  Ed’s reputation as a leader in drug policy crossed international borders. In 1997, he served as an Atlantic Fellow in Public Policy at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, where he researched and lectured on drug policy issues. As part of the Atlantic Fellowship, Ed assisted the UK Anti-Drugs Coordinator in developing the Blair Government’s strategy for reducing substance use. He lectured widely on drug policy at U.S. and British universities and authored numerous publications on substance abuse and drug policy.  Outside of his official duties, Ed also served on the Advisory Committee of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Substance Abuse, as well as the District of Columbia Bar Lawyer Assistance Program, a program providing assistance to law students, lawyers, and judges with substance use and/or mental health disorders.  Ed will be remembered fondly by the many colleagues and friends whose lives he touched during his exemplary public service career.

    Judge Arthur L. Burnett, Sr.

    Promoting mentorships and preventing youth alcohol and substance to help young people build healthy, productive lives. 

    Retired Judge Arthur L. Burnett, Sr. is being honored as an Advocate for Action for his role in beginning the National African American Drug Policy Coalition (NAADPC) program for youth drug prevention.  Judge Burnett designed and implemented a program through which  African American professionals visit schools and talk to young people about the harmful effects of drug use on individual health and academic success.  Under his leadership, the NAADPC works 7 days a week to prevent youth drug and alcohol abuse across the country.  NAADPC provides tutors, counselors, and mentors from a coalition of African American professionals numbering over 1,000,000 men and women.  Judge Burnett personally appears in schools across the country to provide inspirational talks about avoiding youth alcohol and drug use.  His talks emphasize the value of good citizenship and the potential for individuals from humble backgrounds to become part of the American dream.  In the course of his work, Judge Burnett also provides expert advice on drug and juvenile delinquency judicial issues to members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. 

    Dr. Joan Standora

    Improving clinical, administrative and educational practices in the field of substance use disorders.

    For 40 years, Joan Standora, Ph.D. has worked tirelessly to improve clinical, administrative, and educational practices in the substance use disorder field.  Early in her career, Dr. Standora developed an expressive therapy program in a methadone-maintenance residential program and received a NIDA grant for a program serving mothers with substance use disorders and their children.  In 1998, she became the first clinical director of New York City’s Manhattan Treatment Court. Dr. Standora established protocols and policies, supervised staff, and conducted outreach to providers for the drug court participants. Dr. Standora was instrumental in establishing the New York City Regional Drug Court/Treatment Consortium.  Dr. Standora then became the Executive Clinical Director at a Bronx-based treatment program, instituting staff trainings focusing on substance use disorders among clients from low-income minority communities plagued by poor health care and unemployment.  In 2000, Dr. Standora developed and implemented a substance abuse counselor education program at the City University of New York’s Kingsborough Community College. The program became a degree program in 2003, approved by both New York State’s Education Department and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS).  In 2010, Dr. Standora received a grant from the Department of Labor (DOL) through OASAS to retrain 25 unemployed workers as substance abuse counselors, a part of the Administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In 2013, Dr. Standora received a grant to enroll persons over the age of 50 as a community college workforce education project for professionals in the substance use disorder field. She currently directs the degree program in chemical dependency counseling at the City University of New York

    Scott Strode 

    Helping individuals with substance use disorders find and maintain their recovery through sport. 

    Scott Strode has dedicated his life to helping individuals with substance use disorders find and maintain their recovery through sport, a dedication that has earned the attention national media organizations, to include his recognition as a CNN Hero.  Scott founded Phoenix Multisport in 2007 to foster a safe, supportive, physically active community for individuals recovering from alcohol and substance use disorders and for those who choose to live a sober life. Through pursuits such as climbing, hiking, running, strength training, yoga, road/mountain biking, CrossFit, and other activities, Phoenix seeks to help its members develop and maintain the emotional strength they need to stay sober. All activities are free. The only requirement is that individuals have at least 48 hours of continued sobriety to participate. They also must adhere to Phoenix Multisport’s code of conduct, which says that anything that is not nurturing is not welcome.  Since 2007, over 11,000 individuals have attended Phoenix Multisport events in Colorado, where they find a safe, sober community of friends to support them in their recovery. Scott is devoted to changing how the world views those with substance use disorders.  Scott and the staff at Phoenix Multisport welcome newly-recovering individuals to join them for a free activity or workout. It is Scott’s hope that Phoenix Multisport will expand to other areas of the country to reach even more of those in need.

    Melody Heaps and Pamela Rodriguez

    Advancing system-wide justice interventions for people with substance use disorders.

    Melody Heaps and Pamela Rodriguez are partners and leaders in advancing system-wide justice interventions for people with substance use disorders. For more than 30 years, they have shared a collective commitment to collaborative solutions that improve both public health and public safety.

    Melody founded TASC in Chicago in 1976 as a nonprofit agency focused on alternatives to incarceration. She would go on to lead TASC to become a nationally recognized agency before retiring from her role as president and CEO in 2009. She remains president emeritus to TASC and is an advisor to TASC’s Center for Health and Justice, which offers public policy and consulting services nationally and internationally.

    Melody began her career during the civil rights movement and served on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s staff during the Chicago campaign. From these roots grew a lifelong professional commitment to addressing the complex and interrelated issues of drugs, poverty, and crime. Under her leadership, TASC matured from a small pilot project in Cook County, Illinois to a statewide organization providing direct services for 25,000 individuals annually.  

    Pamela Rodriguez has served as TASC’s president and CEO since 2009, having previously directed every aspect of the agency’s operations. Under her leadership, TASC has continued to grow and thrive, including an expanded focus on diversion programs early in the justice continuum to reduce recidivism and the collateral consequences of justice involvement.

    An expert in connecting research to clinical practice, Pam was appointed in 2007 to serve as a practitioner model of the Federal Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. She is active in numerous bodies to increase alternatives to incarceration, improve juvenile justice, and decrease the disproportionate incarceration of people of color.

    Together, Melody and Pam have played significant roles at local, state, and national levels in the development and expansion of community-based diversion programs and treatment alternatives to incarceration to create healthier and safer communities.

    Judge Robert Russell


    Pioneering the veterans treatment court movement.

    In January of 2008, Judge Robert Russell created and began presiding over the first “Veterans Treatment Court” in the United States.  The Veterans Treatment Court is a hybrid Drug Court/Mental Health Court model for justice-involved veterans that features regular court appearances (a bi-weekly minimum in the early phases of the program), mandatory attendance at treatment sessions, and frequent and random testing for substance use (drug and/or alcohol).  The Veterans Treatment Court acts as a “one-stop shop” at the courthouse, with a team of Federal, state, and local veterans’ agencies and organizations working together to link veterans with the programs, benefits, and services they have earned.  For his dedication and perseverance in helping this country’s veterans, The National Vietnam Veterans of America has awarded Judge Russell with the Vietnam Veterans of America Achievement Medal and The National Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States has awarded Judge Russell with the James E. Dan Zandt Citizenship Award.

    Judge Russell has been a pioneer in the drug treatment court movement and remains a strong leader to this day.  In December 1995, Judge Russell created “Buffalo’s Drug Treatment Court” and continues to serve as the Presiding Judge.  In addition, in December 2002, he established and began serving over Buffalo’s Mental Health Treatment Court.  

    Judge Russell is the Past Chairman of the Board of Directors of National Association of Drug Court Professionals and the Past President of the New York State Association of Drug Treatment Court Professionals, Inc.  He also serves on the National Advisory Board of the Judges’ Criminal Justice and Mental Health Leadership Initiative.  He is the recipient of several Awards of Merit from the American Bar Association, New York State Bar Association, and the Erie County Bar Association.

    Commander Harry Schmidt


    Strengthening international partnerships against transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking. 

    CDR Harry Schmidt is being recognized as an Advocate for Action for his tireless work to strengthen international partnerships against transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking.  CDR Schmidt led the expansion of the Multilateral Maritime Counterdrug Summit from eight to 17 partner nations in the Western Hemisphere transit zone, sharing operational and legal expertise to improve transnational cooperation and coordination in the apprehension and prosecution of major drug smugglers.  The program has been so successful that the Department of State asked CDR Schmidt to replicate the Summit in the Caribbean Basin; the first of meeting was held in March 2014.  CDR Schmidt also initiated and developed the concept for Coast Guard Support to Interdiction and Prosecution, an initiative through which three-person USCG teams will be embedded within select U.S. embassies in the Western Hemisphere transit zone.  These teams will assist regional partners in case documentation, evidence handling, and prosecution of maritime drug smuggling cases.  Through these and other ongoing efforts, CDR Schmidt is helping to strengthen international partnerships to reduce drug production, trafficking, use, and their consequences.

    Dr. Kenneth Silverman


    Advancing innovative intervention and treatment practices. 

    Dr. Kenneth Silverman is a researcher and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine and is Director of the Bayview Medical Center’s Center for Learning and Health.  Dr. Silverman’s research concerns the Therapeutic Workplace, an employment-based intervention for behavior change. Through the Therapeutic Workplace, unemployed adults living in poverty earn the opportunity to work and earn wages by meeting treatment goals.  Goals may include abstinence verified through drug monitoring, as well as adherence to Vivitrol (injectable naltrexone), a medication to prevent narcotic relapse. Pay is contingent on attendance, work speed, and accuracy. Workplace participants are trained in data entry skills using a web-based computerized program that automates teaching and accelerates learning. Enrollees also learn professional demeanor. Patient recovery is the priority of this program. If drug use occurs, every effort is made to keep the bond between employee and employer intact, so work can resume once abstinence is reestablished. Studies show incentives are among the most effective tools for initiating and sustaining abstinence, but they can be costly. Using wages from employment to pay for incentive interventions is a unique solution for treating people with chronic substance use disorders who may be at risk for relapse even after years of abstinence.  In clinical trials, patients with long histories of unemployment and severe substance use disorders, including intravenous heroin and cocaine use, have been able to achieve long-term recovery through the Therapeutic Workplace.

    Steve Talpins


    Identifying and promoting new strategies to reduce illegal drug use and its consequences.

    Stephen K. Talpins, an attorney with Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, is Vice President of the Institute for Behavior and Health (IBH), a non-profit organization devoted to identifying and promoting new strategies to reduce illegal drug use and its consequences.  IBH was founded and is led by Dr. Robert L. DuPont, the first Director of NIDA and the second White House drug policy advisor.

    Mr. Talpins is an innovator and recognized authority on the full range of drugged driving issues.  For more than 20 years he has worked collaboratively with public, private, and non-profit stakeholders on drugged driving. In 1994, Mr. Talpins argued and won a precedent setting Frye hearing on the admissibility of Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) testimony and evidence, including the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.  Since that time, Stephen has consulted with prosecutors around the country on issues involving the DRE protocol and field sobriety tests.  In 2010-2011, Mr. Talpins drafted a model per se drugged driving law for IBH.  The model law was designed to be adapted to the needs of any state and provided the basis for a bill filed in the Florida legislature. In 2012, NHTSA asked Mr. Talpins to identify ways to incorporate drugged driving into the established Administrative License Review (ALR) system.  Mr. Talpins drafted a model provision that was presented to the Board of Directors of the Governors Highway Safety Administration.  The model ALR drug law was well-received and, in August 2013, the Governors Highway Safety Administration adopted a resolution encouraging states to study the efficacy of an ALR system for drugged drivers. Steve’s legal work and advocacy have served as important contributions to the national effort to prevent drugged driving and its public health and safety consequences.

    Dr. Steven Loyd


    Preventing and addressing prescription drug abuse through prescriber education.

    Dr. Steven Lloyd is making a difference in the national effort to prevent and address prescription drug abuse through prescriber education.  Dr. Loyd is an Internal Medicine physician and medical educator in Tennessee with expertise in proper prescribing of controlled substances and substance use disorders.  He is in recovery from his own prescription opioid and benzodiazepine disorder and now regularly lectures and educates health care professionals, law enforcement, policymakers, and others on the dangers of prescription narcotics.  He is the Associate Chief of Staff of Education at the Mountain Home VA Medical Center, has considerable expertise in neonatal addiction issues/neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), and is a vocal advocate for public health/public safety cooperation.  He is charismatic, plain-spoken, and has a sense of humor in his lectures and presentations. A quote from a November 2012 article about him: "Will addiction ever go away? No way. There'll always be something. The key is to treat the underlying problems. We're not going to get a handle on this until we get a multi-pronged approach and erase the stigma associated with addictive disease."