Melody M. Heaps

TASC Founder and President Emeritus

Melody M. Heaps founded TASC in 1976 and led it to become a nationally recognized agency before she retired as president in 2009. She is currently president emeritus and a consultant to TASC.

Under Ms. Heaps’ leadership, the agency grew from a small pilot program in Cook County, Illinois, to a $20 million, statewide organization providing direct services to approximately 20,000 individuals annually.

Ms. Heaps began her professional career during the civil rights movement as a community organizer for the Chicago City Missionary Society, now the Community Renewal Society. She later joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s staff during the Chicago Campaign. In her work on issues of housing, employment, and economic empowerment, Ms. Heaps witnessed the toll that the growing illicit drug problem was taking on individuals, families, and entire communities. From these roots grew a lifelong professional commitment to applying public health and safety solutions to the complex and interrelated issues of drugs, poverty, and crime.

A recognized leader in building comprehensive and collaborative public policy solutions, Ms. Heaps is sought for her expertise nationally and internationally. In addition to serving as a delegate to “Beyond 2008,” the global NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) forum to the United Nations General Assembly’s Special Session on Illicit Drugs, Ms. Heaps’ contributions have been instrumental in guiding and developing major national initiatives. She has been instrumental in the development and implementation of major national initiatives, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s “Partners for Recovery” initiative and the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s judicial training curriculum, which evolved and continues to have an impact as the Justice Leaders Systems Change Initiative.

Ms. Heaps has provided consultation services for numerous private and public agencies including the U.S. Department of State, INL (Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs); U.S. Department of Justice, BJA (Bureau of Justice Assistance) and NIJ (National Institute of Justice); and the NASADAD (National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors). Her appointments to committees and councils over the years have included the National Advisory Council for HHS/SAMHSA/CSAT (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment), as well as the Drug Control Research, Data, and Evaluation Committee of the White House ONDCP (Office of National Drug Control Policy).

A graduate of Northwestern University, Ms. Heaps received the university’s prestigious Service to Society award in 1995. She has co-written a number of published articles, including Recovery-Oriented Care for Drug-Abusing Offenders in 2009, Toward a Recovery-Oriented System of Care Within the Criminal Justice System in 2008, Toward a Rational Drug Policy: Setting New Priorities in 1994, and Making the Connection: Substance Abuse and the Use of Intermediate Punishments in 1992.