May 2023 McK-UDOS Coalition Newsletter



While the state of Illinois has ended its mask mandate and other COVID-19 restrictions, we want to continue to advocate for precautionary measures and guidance to help reduce the spreading of COVID-19 through proper hand washing, social distancing, respiratory etiquette and cleaning and disinfecting regularly. We are currently fully reopened with all programs and services available for in-person and virtual access.

McK-UDOS Coalition Meeting Minutes

Date: May 11th, 2023
Time: 11:30 am- 1:00 pm via Zoom


  • Jae Lee is MAHA's  new Substance Use Prevention & Treatment Program Manager 
    • Previous work as a licensed therapist, and managing other behavioral health programs in Chicago 
  • Brief group introductions 
    • Mimi Tsang – SUP & Gambling Program Coordinator at MAHA
    • Carlos Rodriguez– Director at West Care
    • Andrew Piotrowski – Program manager at MAHA for the Navigator program
    • Synia Agnew – Rush SUD-COE, Youth Organization Program (education on substance use)
    • Tanya Bibbs-Smith Regional Outreach Coordinator at TASC
    • Jake Levinson Administrator Cannabis Center at Prevention First
    • Laura Castaneda – Illinois Action for Children
    • Lizette Leon - Healthcare Alternative Systems

GUEST SPEAKER - Synia Agnew on Substance Use 

  • Relevance of SUD in Chicago 
    • Opioid overdose deaths highest among men, non-Latinx Black, and middle aged adults, but overdose deaths increasing with youth population rapidly 
    • Vaping is on the rise, adolescent drug use on the rise 
    • Opioids increase dopamine levels and leads to behavioral changes which can lead to dependence 
    • Nicotine: smoking increases anxiety and tension (withdrawal symptom); tolerance is built quickly 
      • Highly addictive 
    • THC: brains aren’t fully developed until 25 years of age, which makes effects of substances even stronger  
      • Difficulty thinking, memory loss, difficulty maintaining attention etc.
  • How drug misuse occurs
    • Various paths to substance use disorder 
      • Poor mental health --> self-medication --> SUD 
      • Recently got out of surgery and prescribed addictive pain medication --> takes medication as prescribed, but develops an addiction (possibly due to genetic dispositions) --> SUD 
    • Unintentional fentanyl use 
      • Very small amount of fentanyl can be fatal (has no smell) 
      • Criminal drug networks are mass-producing fake pill laced with fentanyl to deceive 
      • Studies found that relative to white patients, black patients are less likely to be given pain medications and, if given pain medications, they receive lower quantities 
        • Can lead people to get medication from places other than prescription
  • Talking with youth 
    • Letting them know the effects 
    • Not villainizing drug use/reducing stigma 
    • Helping students develop positive coping methods 
    • Discuss function of drugs in our society
      • Various medications/drugs that people use daily to help them 
        • Birth control, mental health medication, recreational use, etc 
    • Developing a safe relationship with substances 
      • Understanding how substance use develops 
      • Avoid temptation and peer pressure 
      • Seek professional mental health help 
      • Examine risk – family history 
      • Awareness of usage – are you dependent? How long can you go without using substance? How often are you using? 
    • What to do if youth needs help 
      • Warm hand off 
        • Connect them to resources 
  • Harm reduction 
    • Various examples of harm reduction in all aspects of life 
      • Seat belt in case of an accident, birth control, sun screen etc 
      • With substance use 
        • Methadone treatment, nicotine replacement therapy, etc 
    • Withdrawal symptoms 
      • Nausea, irritability, trouble sleeping, diarrhea, and more 
    • Narcan – overdose reversal medication (safe to use, no negative effects) 
      • Nasal spray – free, available in Chicago Public Libraries 
      • to find Narcan near you 
    • Working with CPS to allow Narcan in schools 
      • But Narcan is not allowed in public schools 
  • Discussion
    • Carlos added: “University of Michigan's acronym: CAGE to screen for potential SUD” 
      • C = Complained about your use
      • A = Attempted to quit
      • G = Do you feel guilty about your use or do you feel like you have to "go get' it?
      • E = Eye opener (I need it to feel right when I wake up and start my day) 

SWOT: Please fill out our feedback survey!

DISCUSSION: Justice Cannabis Co. Dispensary 

  • Jake L: reach out to Cannabis Equity Coalition and work with them and new dispensary to set up an agreement 
  • Carlos: still researching, but Margaret has more information 
  • Margaret Polovchak  (OMNI): a lot of experience on this topic; important to be cautious with collaborating with dispensary 
    • In past, they have produced prevention messages and lockboxes, considered signage (must be 21 yrs to purchase) 
    • Potential pitfall of associating: 
      • Dispensary tries to look beneficial to community (involved in community) 
        • Give out free merchandise – this allows people to promote them  
      • But cautious with sharing Omni logo with dispensaries/marijuana industry – because dispensary will then claim to be working with them and promote that 
      • They (OMNI) just provide information to dispensaries 
  • Mimi added that dispensary will have a lot of security protocols to prevent selling to minors 
    • Margaret added that youth usually have someone else of legal age buy it anyways 
  • Carlos: need to keep having discussions and gathering information and keep our goals in mind 


  • West Care - Carlos Rodriguez 
    • Partnering with Fiesta Del Sol  
      • It’s not about catching wrongdoing or “policing” underage drinking
      • It’s more about doing things right 
        • We will publicize how well they do 
      • Any issues that are found will be discussed privately with the event organizers 
    • They are looking for other street festivals to work with  
      • Focus is on events where alcohol will be sold 
      • There is a form that they will complete to evaluate and share results with organizers 
    • Carlos can give a brief 5-10 minute presentation on safe festivals  
      • Could potentially speak with Youth Coalition members to see if there is an interest in participating/volunteering. 
  • Healthcare Alternative Systems - Lizette Leon 
    • Hosting an event on youth engagement in public safety 
    • Takes place May 16th at new site on West Side  



  • MAHA is co-hosting an AAPI event on Saturday, May 20th, 2023. 
    • Please join us at the Chinatown Square Plaza. 
    • The event will be from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm 

NEXT MEETING: Thursday, July 13th, 2023 from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm