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Together We Are Stronger: Building Hope and Success through TASC Specialized Case Management

(Chicago) – Each September is National Recovery Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the millions of Americans who are in recovery from substance use and mental health disorders, reminding us that treatment is effective and that people can and do recover.

This year’s Recovery Month theme—Together We Are Stronger—resonates in a special way for TASC, whose specialized case management work brings together services, strengths, and support to help people build and sustain health and wellness.

TASC case management combines clinically focused, multisystem service coordination with treatment placement and recovery management to create a unique client service approach.
TASC case managers helped nearly 14,000 people across Illinois in 2018. The majority of these individuals were involved with the justice system, which can be extremely difficult and complicated to navigate. The tangle of people, organizations, deadlines, and requirements that comprise the typical court case can be confusing in the best of circumstances. For a person in active withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, or someone in the early stages of recovery, it can be stressful and overwhelming.

Each person's journey is different. However, according to Kathleen Madonna, supervisor for TASC court services in Cook County, almost all the clients she sees are initially afraid, upset, and exceptionally cautious about sharing information. Many assume that TASC is an arm of the court or probation, and perhaps more concerned about punishing than helping. 

“Those first conversations are the most important,” says Kathleen. “That’s when the client gets a sense of whether or not we are being real with them. That’s our opportunity to show them that we are worthy of their trust, that we are committed to working with them on their behalf, and that maybe, just maybe, their situation is perhaps not as hopeless as it appears in that moment.”

A case manager with TASC for more than 17 years, Kathleen remembers the first time she met Arthur (not his real name).

“He was really struggling to stay focused. Our TASC assessment indicated a need for drug treatment. At first, Arthur was very fearful and resistant to treatment, and to the rules of the TASC program. The court was proposing prison, and Arthur’s public defender informed him he may not even be eligible for the TASC program. He felt very discouraged and not very positive about himself or his future. 

“I continued to encourage him not to be discouraged, and we brainstormed together, writing down all his strengths and positive attributes. For example, he had steady employment and the support of his family, and he was attending support groups in the community. Much of those first meetings involved going over what Arthur needed to do next for the courts and/or treatment, identifying the array of strengths and positive aspects he possessed, and creating a strategy to move him successfully from step to step. 

“After we had met several times, Arthur started building confidence in himself and assuming a more positive outlook on his future and the outcome of the court. He began to see the results of what we talked about in those first meetings. He saw me advocate for him and appear in court on his behalf. He understood how TASC was here to support him, work alongside him in the process, and make sure he got the appropriate level of treatment and other services he needed to be successful in recovery. He realized he didn’t have to do this alone, that TASC would loan him the hope and the strength and the confidence he needed until he could build his own.”

TASC case management combines clinically focused, multisystem service coordination with treatment placement and recovery management to create a unique client service approach. TASC programs focus on building wellness and self-sufficiency as individuals begin to manage their health conditions while also navigating the complex requirements of public systems. The components of TASC’s specialized case management include:

  • Identification, Screening, and Assessment
  • Recommendations and Service Planning
  • Service Referrals and Placement
  • Education and Advocacy
  • Ongoing Monitoring, Reporting, and Service Plan Adjustments

Evaluations of TASC’s programs show that TASC criminal justice clients have 64 percent greater completion rates for addiction treatment compared to other individuals referred to treatment by Illinois’ justice and corrections systems. Among TASC juvenile justice clients, treatment completion rates are nearly double those of justice-involved youth sent to treatment without TASC.

Distinct and separate from treatment services, TASC’s specialized case management services are considered a national best practice, as featured in the Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards.

“The kind of case management that TASC does is multifaceted, because we're linking systems and services,” says Alicia Osborne director of TASC’s adult criminal justice and treatment services. “At the center of this work are our clients, who are working hard to rebuild their lives. Once they successfully complete their work with TASC, they are typically ready to move ahead with their lives. So our case managers who were alongside them during the early stages of their recovery journey don’t always get to see the positive long-term effects of their care and support.”

Kathleen was given a glimpse.

“During our service planning when Arthur and I discussed some of his goals, he mentioned that he wanted to go back to school to learn more about becoming a counselor. He felt that TASC had saved his life, and he wanted to find ways to give back to others what TASC has given him. 

“The only thing that could possibly be better than seeing Arthur proud and confident, in school and working on his recovery, is knowing that he wants to continue on so that he can be that strength and support for others. That’s a powerful thing.” 

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