Save the Michaels of the World is an advocacy and education organization that raises awareness of prescription drug addiction, overdose, and suicide. The organization (which began as a small kitchen table action group in June, 2011) was established by our dear friend, Avi Israel, following the death by suicide of his 20-year-old son, Michael David Israel, to bring attention and awareness to the devastating effects of opioid medications.
As Avi tells it, “Michael had Crohn’s Disease. I knew everything about it. I knew about his medicines. I knew what Michael could and couldn’t eat. I knew every detail. But, I didn’t know about addiction. I didn’t give him the right support. I listened to the counselors telling my wife and me that we should use tough love. They told us to change the locks on the doors because he would eventually steal from us. But Michael never stole a thing, ever. He was a good boy. Michael just wanted us to love him and help him overcome his addiction. I wish I’d known that then.”
That small kitchen table action group is now a 501(c3) not-for-profit organization that has grown exponentially. We asked Avi and his team to share what they’ve done to turn the Israels’ unimaginable loss into hope and here’s what they said…
We’ve changed the laws in New York State by advocating for the tightening of regulations on opiate prescribing. As a result, pharmacies now monitor the prescriptions people fill and cross-reference their prescriptions from other pharmacies, which eliminates multiple prescriptions being filled for the same medication. We reach out to schools, professional organizations and businesses all over the region to raise awareness and provide education regarding the dangers of addiction to prescription and other drugs which can lead to accidental overdose or suicide.
On January 1, 2017, Save the Michaels announced the opening of the House of Hope and Community Resources in Buffalo, which trains volunteer Peer Recovery Coaches taught by OASAS accredited CRPA facilitators. (Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery: Recovery Coach Academy©.)
House of Hope Peer Recovery Coaches have experienced addiction within their own immediate families. They empathize with the emotional pain inherent to addiction within a family. Once training is complete, our coaches begin meeting with people who have a family member suffering from a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). From the start, coaches prioritize the most pressing issues and begin working towards resolutions. Is the addicted individual in need of shelter, food, or medical care? Are the family members requesting information about how to communicate more effectively with their addicted loved one? If so, we provide information on navigating the social services system. Coaches teach families about the disease of addiction and how it changes the brain. House of Hope helps family members secure treatment for their loved ones ready to embark on their road to recovery. We teach families how to help advance their own lives positively, while still supporting their family member. Recognizing the chronic nature of this disease, our coaches assist families long-term; families meet with our coaches for as long as they need or want to.
The House of Hope also supports different groups of people whose lives have been forever impacted by addiction. There’s a bi-monthly grief support group for parents who’ve lost a child to overdose or another incident related to addiction. We also offer a support group for grandparents raising their grandchildren due to the primary parents’ addiction(s).
House of Hope seeks to educate families by offering weekly classes on topics such as understanding addiction, helping a loved one achieve recovery, improving family communication, and helping a family member maintain their recovery. All classes are open and free to the public. We also provide education forums in the five counties of Western New York, as well as in other areas of New York State. For additional information on Save the Michaels of the World, House of Hope or any of our programs, contact us at (716) 984.8375, or [email protected].
In closing, Save the Michaels would like you to know they’re hosting a Mother’s Day weekend Empty Chair Rally on Saturday, May 13th at 11:00am in Niagara Square, in Buffalo.
Mother’s Day is unbearable for any mother who has lost a child to addiction and we want to make sure no more mothers to have to suffer this kind of pain. Representatives from Governor Cuomo’s office, Erie County, and Mayor Byron Brown will speak at the rally. We invite Recovery Talk readers to join us and bring a photograph of their loved one to place on an empty chair that day. We believe it will make a profound statement and have a lasting impression on our public officials and the entire community.
Avi, on behalf of all of the Michaels and all of their loved ones, thank you for all that you do.