New York State has set aside a record-high $247 million in the latest budget to fund opioid and drug addiction countermeasures. Senators representing Western New York districts gathered in Buffalo Monday to announce $425,000 of that money will go to Save The Michaels of the World.
A bipartisan group of State Senators serving Western New York appeared in the Buffalo offices of Save The Michaels to announce the funding for the organization.
The organization was founded by Avi and Julie Israel and named for their son Michael, one of many young lives cut short by opioid addiction. Save The Michaels provides numerous sources with the exception of in-facility treatment. Avi Israel stated that they've seen remarkable results in the lack of relapses in the critical first few months when a patient begins treatment.
"We've actually had only nine percent of people that relapse within that period of seven months," he said. "There's really no magic to it other than working with the family and helping the family understand what is addiction, what you need to do with addiction and how you support a loved one to go through recovery."
The $247 million secured in the state budget for drug prevention efforts are a $37 million increase from the previous budget. The funds Senators announced for Save The Michaels were, by their own admission, dollars that some could see as "pork barrel."
They didn't apologize for that. Far from it.
"I'll fight for pork like that any time," said Senator Chris Jacobs.
Senator Robert Ortt followed by suggesting it's not pork but, rather, an obligation by local representatives.
"I think that's what elected leaders are supposed to go and do," he said. "Bring the resources back to help their constituents and to save lives."
Representatives of Senators Michael Ranzenhofer and Patrick Gallivan were also present.
State Senator Tim Kennedy praised the Israels for "turning their pain into action," pointing out he has attended many funerals and shed tears with friends and families who never thought the ongoing epidemic would ever directly touch them.
"Our hope and our goal is that other families across this community and across communities like ours in the State of New York will no longer have to shed those same tears and feel that same pain," Kennedy said.