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State funding will aid agency fighting drug addiction

A local nonprofit agency that helps families of people battling drug addiction will add more staff and expand services thanks to funding in the new state budget.

Save the Michaels of the World, which is receiving $425,000 in state funding, will add six full-time positions and turn two of four current part-time positions into full-time jobs, said Avi Israel, the organization's founder and president.

The nonprofit also will work through every local drug court in Western New York to find in-state treatment beds when there are no local inpatient beds available, said Israel, who founded the organization after the 2011 suicide of his son, Michael, who had been addicted to prescription painkillers.

"We've been working at it for almost seven years now since my son passed away," Israel said. "We have some stats that we've shown to New York state which shows that some of the work that we are doing here is really bearing some real good results."

Save the Michaels, which aims to link families with resources, provides free classes and support groups for family members of addicts.

Part of the plan is to try to keep more of the state's Medicaid funding within New York.

In local drug treatment courts, when judges are looking to place people in treatment facilities, often there are no local inpatient beds available. Representatives of treatment facilities from out of state come to local courts seeking to have clients sent there.

Having Save the Michaels coordinate in-state treatment will allow state funding through Medicaid or money paid by local insurers to stay in the state, Israel said. The organization will be working with the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to place individuals in one of 12 addiction treatment centers across New York.

"We're trying to keep everything within New York State," he said.

The new funding will bring the total staff at Save the Michaels to 10 employees. The organization also has 20 to 25 volunteers.

Members of the local state Senate delegation gathered at the offices of Save the Michaels House of Hope and Community Resources on Delaware Avenue on Monday afternoon to announce the funding.

State Sen. Chris Jacobs, R-Buffalo, said the funding is part of $247 million in the state budget related to drug education, prevention, treatment and recovery services.

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