Friday, September 15, 2006

TASC National Conference in Birmingham

Treatment alternatives group to hold national meeting here
Jeffco specialized courts to be featured at 4-day conference
Friday, September 15, 2006
Birmingham News staff writer

Specialized courts in Jefferson County for criminals with drug, mental health and domestic violence problems will be featured next week when a national conference comes to Birmingham.

The Virginia-based National Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities organization will hold its 13th national conference Sunday through Wednesday.

More than 500 court personnel, public policy officials and substance abuse treatment experts from across the country are expected at the conference.

It will explore how to start or expand court-based alternatives to prison that can be used to treat the underlying problems behind continued criminal behavior.

TASC in Jefferson County, a part of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is the longest-running TASC group in the country, said Foster Cook, director of Jefferson County's TASC and the conference chairman.

Founded in 1973, the county's TASC program provides drug testing in Jefferson County courts, and coordinates treatment programs in the county's Drug, Mental Health and Domestic Violence courts.

Birmingham was chosen for the conference because UAB's TASC has come up with innovative programs and because of the changes Birmingham has undergone in the last four decades, said Mary Shilton, director of National TASC.

"The UAB TASC is outstanding and known throughout the country for using the resources available in the community to revitalize and reach out to people in the criminal justice system," she said.

"Also, the city has such a wonderful, rich heritage in civil rights," she said. "We also thought this would be a good time to pause and reflect on the lessons from Birmingham then and Birmingham now.

The conference will feature a tour of Jefferson County drug court, a diversion program for some nonviolent offenders with drug problems. Circuit Judge Pete Johnson, who presides over the Drug Court also is a scheduled speaker at the conference.

"We're encouraging community corrections and drug court people across Alabama to learn how to expand their program or start one," Cook said.

Circuit Judge Laura Petro will talk about how TASC's services can be used in a specialized court that provides early intervention and intensive supervision in domestic violence cases.

Cook will be part of a panel talking about how to set up a Mental Heath Court that stresses treatment. Jefferson County's 5-year-old court, where nonviolent defendants can get probation if they complete the mental health treatment program, recently graduated its 100th client.

Conference programs also are planned at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and at 16th Street Baptist Church.

Other panels will focus on issues ranging from methamphetamine and prescription drug addiction to how community and church groups can help reintegrate prisoners after their release.

I know the good folks at TASC in Birmingham and work with them often. They do remarkable things for people who need serious help. I'll be attending the conference next week and am looking forward to it. Any new programs stared in Alabama should be modeled after this one because it works.


TASC Insider said...

TASC is nothing more than a big money scam. The people involved in TASC are mere pawns in the money game. It's a joke. They want people to fail, regardless of what they tell you. It makes them more money when people fail. TASC needs to be done away with. There are much better, CHEAPER, alternatives available.

Anonymous said...

The only way that people fail on Tasc, is if they do not comply with the programs! I know several people who are employed with TASC, and these people care and truly want to help their clients.By the way, I don't think you realize that TASC really doesn't have money to burn! TASC has saved a lot of lives!!

Loretta Nall said...

One of my very closest friends works at TASC in Birmingham and I've never met another counselor who cared as much about his clients as this guy does. I've seen him fire people for treating people in the TASC program badly. I also know that they do not have money to burn and have to fight for every cent they do get to keep the program up and running. TASC beats jail and prison any day of the week.