Youth suspect
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Al-Sam, a nonprofit association that works with young people addicted to drugs and alcohol, is hundreds of thousands of shekels in debt and is at risk of shutting down.

At a press conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday, association officials said Al-Sam could be forced to close within a few months if it doesn't get an immediate infusion of funds and a budget increase from the government of about NIS 1 million a year.

According to Orna Leshem, the group's chairman, over the past year Al-Sam has been implementing a recovery plan that has included employee dismissals, in addition to closing three of its 14 branches -- in Rishon Letzion, Or Akiva and the Golan Heights.

Al-Sam was launched in 1983 and since then has been treating addicts up to the age of 24 and helping their families. The government refers most of the Al-Sam's clients through the Youth Probation Service, which requires them to get treatment. Others come to the organization under pressure from family, friends, or the educational system.

According to Al-Sam, the amount of money the government allocates to treat young drug users isn't nearly enough to meet the need, and falls further short every year as drug use increases.

"With no real increase in the budget we will have to reduce our activities until we finally shut down in a few months," said Leshem.

The additional NIS 1 million the group is requesting constitutes around NIS 200 per client per month, Leshem said.

"This sum it the difference between rehabilitation and deterioration," she explained. "To deliver the treatment that the Social Affairs Ministry itself demands, our budget is not enough."

"Because we're a nonprofit association, the state expects us to get support from donations and philanthropic groups, but not only have donations in general dropped sharply, donors are turned off by the war on drugs; it's not considered an attractive enough cause."

Al-Sam warned that if young people are not treated early, rehabilitating them later will cost considerably more.

The Social Affairs Ministry stressed that there had been no cuts to Al-Sam's budget.

"The budget that the ministry transfers to the association offers an appropriate response to treating the population," its statement said. "The ministry is not responsible for the management of the association."