NGO fighting teen drug abuse could fold

Al Sam NGO, which treats drug use in youth and young adults below 24 years of age, calls on government to allocate funds.

Heroin 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Heroin 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Al Sam NGO, which treats drug use in youth and young adults below 24 years of age, on Sunday called on the government to allocate the budget to allow the organization to continue operating in Israel.
“We are at risk of closure,” Al Sam director-general Orna Leshem said at a press conference in Tel Aviv. “We are in a crisis. This is our last minute and we are concerned about our fate.”
In the past year, the NGO has had to close down three out of its 14 Israeli branches – in Rishon Lezion, the Golan Heights and Ofakim – as well as cut staff due to the insufficiency of the government-allocated budget.
Today, Al Sam claims that to continue its activity and be able to provide full treatment to people who are already being taken care of and those on the organization’s waiting list it needs more money.
“If we don’t survive, it will mean that a lot of young people will be out in the streets instead of receiving our treatment,” Leshem said. “There are a lot of people who are ‘addicted’ to Al Sam and they are doing what they can to help this place stay open.”
According to her, the organization needs an additional NIS 250 per person currently being treated in one of its remaining 11 branches to complete their treatment. In addition, funding is needed to hire more staff and serve those on Al Sam’s waiting list.
In total, the NGO is demanding an additional NIS 1 million from the Finance Ministry to stay open and function normally.
Al Sam, which has been operating in Israel for more than 30 years to reduce drug use and alcohol abuse among teenagers and young adults, provides the individuals concerned and their families with professional treatment. The association also run a hotline, which parents or teens can call to talk to a professional about drug use.
Leshem said private donations are very difficult to obtain.
“People don’t think that they should be donating for [treating abuse of] drugs, they say it is the government that should be doing that. In addition, they feel that if they donate for [the treatment of abuse of] drugs, it comes off as if they had a connection to the subject, which they don’t want to be associated with,” she explained.
“If we don’t help these youngsters now, it will cost the state much more later on,” she continued. “Rehab centers cost much more, criminality costs much more for the government. That’s why we need to go everything we can to save Al Sam.”
Among the supporters of the NGO present at the press conference was Varda Gillerman- Bar, whose son committed suicide a few years ago following extensive use of marijuana, which caused him to suffer from depression. Today she actively promotes Al Sam’s operations and cause.
“Nobody thinks that you can get depression because of grass, and depression is a terminal disease, and we are not from a tough neighborhood, we are not a family considered at risk, but this happened to us, too,” Gillerman-Bar said.
“At the time this was happening to my son Shachaf, we did not know anything. If we had known something about this field, if we had known Al Sam, they would have taught us how to recognize signs of drug addiction,” she continued. “If Al Sam closes, there will no place to turn to for help.”