Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy
Director, Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy
Interim Director, Institute for Metropolitan Affairs
Kathie Kane-Willis is the co-founder and director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, a research and policy institute housed at Roosevelt University, which she created in 2005. Kathie, a former heroin user, has trended the increase in heroin use since 2004. Her work focuses on promoting health based solutions to drug use, ensuring that individuals with substance use disorders are restored to useful citizenship, including the removal of barriers related to employment, education, housing and healthcare. Kathie has worked extensively towards harm reduction policy solutions to the heroin and opioid crisis, including “Good Samaritan” immunity laws and naloxone access laws in Midwestern states Additionally, her work strives to reduce the collateral damage that the criminal justice system creates for those who use drugs as well as to reduce the racial disparity of those charged with drug offenses. Kane-Willis has received numerous awards for her research and advocacy work on behalf on individuals who are impacted by substance use and the criminal justice system.
Kane-Willis has designed and taught several classes at both the graduate and undergraduate levels related to drugs at the intersection of different social spheres including sociology, economics, and criminal justice at Roosevelt University and Adler University. Kathie also serves as the chair for the Women’s Committee for Illinois Advisory Council on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependency, is the advisor and mentor for Roosevelt University's chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), and is a member of the steering committee of Mom’s United to End the War on Drugs. She also supervises and mentors students every semester through research assistantships with the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy.
Giovanni Aviles has been a member of the research team at the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy since August of 2013. Giovanni earned her Master of Social Work from Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago in May of 2014 and her B.A. in Applied Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2009. While with the ICDP, Giovanni contributed in co-authoring Patchwork Policy: an evaluation of arrests and tickets for marijuana misdemeanors in Illinois, Youth in Substance Use in Oak Park and River Forest: A mixed methods examination of epidemiological trends and an evaluation of the continuum of care, Diminishing Capacity: The Heroin Crisis and Illinois Treatment in a National Perspective. Giovanni's experience includes educating and advocating for individuals with an HIV/AIDs diagnosis in recovery of their substance use in general and sexual health, health policy, and research methodology.
Benjamin Waite has been a member of the research team at the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy since August 2014. Benjamin earned his Master of Social Work from Jane Addams School of Social Work at University of Illinois at Chicago in May of 2015. Since joining the team at the ICDP, Benjamin has contributed in co-authoring notable ICDP publications such as Youth in Substance Use in Oak Park and River Forest: A mixed methods examination of epidemiological trends and an evaluation of the continuum of care and Diminishing Capacity: The Heroin Crisis and Illinois Treatment in a National Perspective. Ben has years of experience in both political and community organizing, including work on the Living Wage Coalition in Ithaca NY, and was recently part of the organizing team of the recently passed Single Room Occupancy Preservation Ordnance. He has experience working with formerly incarcerated individuals, as well as former and current drug users; aiding them in finding employment, and housing.
Justyna Czechowska has been a research assistant with the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy since October 2014. Justyna earned her Medical Degree from Poznan University of Medical Sciences in Poznan, Poland. Her work with the adult inpatient population frequently involved the complex relationship between substance use and mental illness and the importance of community-based care in the recovery from mental health or addiction problems. She is currently pursuing a M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Roosevelt University.
Stephanie Schmitz is the Director of Research and Evaluation at the Chicago Urban League and serves as a consultant for the Institute of Metropolitan Affairs and the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy. Ms. Schmitz has completed masters-level education and practicum training in social work and has over five years experience working with substance use and mental health issues. She is also experienced in evaluating social service delivery systems. Schmitz is currently a doctoral student at Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her doctoral work at the University of Illinois at Chicago focuses on mental health and substance use treatment needs, feelings of stigma and their relationship to service utilization among incarcerated populations. Her professional work focuses on public policy analysis and criminal justice reforms to address the social and legal consequences of national and local drug policies, studying service use patterns among individuals with mental and substance use disorders to improve service delivery systems and assisting community organizations in their advocacy efforts through the development of targeted research and advocacy messages. She currently serves on the Research and Policy Committees for the Illinois General Assembly's Disproportionate Justice Impact Study. She also serves on the Chicago Taskforce on LGBT Substance Abuse.