FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ISRAELI SOCIAL SERVICES GROUP RELEASES ANNUAL REPORT ON YOUTH
– Thirty Percent of Teens Have Abused Designer Drugs–
– Ethiopian Immigrant Youth Face Discrimination –
Jerusalem / New York, NY, April 4, 2013 – ELEM – Youth in Distress in Israel, Israel’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to the treatment and rehabilitation of abused, neglected, and adjudicated Jewish and Arab Israeli youth, has presented its annual report to President Shimon Peres. It contains information on the status of adolescents served by ELEM during the past year. In 2012, the organization made contact with more than 20,000 at-risk youngsters who were affected by sexual abuse, prostitution, drug abuse, emotional abuse and discrimination.
Key findings of the report include a 10 percent increase in drug abuse among youth aged 12-18 (including hard drugs, designer drugs, and soft drugs such as marijuana and hashish) bringing the number of abusers to 30 percent of all teens. In addition, there has been an alarming 10 percent increase in the number of youth who use these drugs on a regular basis.
The report also reveals a 70 percent increase in the number of at-risk youth from Ethiopia served by ELEM in 2012. Seventy-three percent of this group reported that they encountered racism, 33 percent claimed discrimination by school faculty, and 33 percent felt ostracized by peers from other ethnic groups.
Commenting on the report, Lenore Ruben, president of ELEM/US, said, “The report shows the effects of the severe stress that all Israeli youth face. It also reveals a very disturbing progression regarding the situation of Ethiopian adolescents. Our social service professionals continue to work with our Israeli counterparts to provide support in the realm of advocacy and mentorship to help reverse this trend.” Efrat Shafrut, ELEM/Israel’s executive director, said, “The phenomenon of abusing drugs has been growing, and we are now faced with a national calamity.”
Drug Abuse Epidemic
Data collected from ELEM’s youth projects throughout the country shows that abuse of designer drugs, including a legal hallucinogen known as “Mr. Nice Guy,” has become common among teenagers from all walks of life. This is due to the ease with which the drugs can be purchased and their relatively low price.
Although legal and perceived as “soft” drugs, these products present severe health risks. In the past year, ELEM staff helped more than 10 individuals seek emergency medical attention following the use of these drugs. Some were in life-threatening critical condition.
Shafrut emphasized the seriousness of designer drug abuse. “Unlike other drugs, these drugs make users more aggressive and violent, and this year we encountered cases of severe violence among youth who were under their influence. Another problem we face is youth injecting “Hagigat,” which is a hallucinogen and a cheap substitute for hard drugs. This drug can cause severe psychiatric reactions, infections and illnesses.”
Drastic Increase in Number of Ethiopian Youth at Risk
The report shows that in 2012 there was a 70 percent increase in the number of Ethiopian youth who sought aid from ELEM. In total, 1,697 youngsters from the Ethiopian community received aid. This figure indicates the severe distress experienced by the Ethiopian youth, stemming from social and economic hardships, the inter-generational gap, the difficulty of integrating in educational settings, racism, and social exclusion by Israeli society.
Nava Barak, president of ELEM/Israel, commented, “During the past year we encountered manifestations of severe violence among Ethiopian youth, including the death of a boy a few weeks ago. Clubs and places of entertainment in big cities sometimes refuse to admit Ethiopian youth. These youngsters are frustrated and resentful and find for themselves alternative recreational places that have a high concentration of members of their community. Anger and frustration, combined with drug and alcohol abuse, create a ticking time bomb, as evidenced by mounting violence. As a social service organization, our duty is to sound an alarm against these manifestations of discrimination and racism.”
There is a close tie between ELEM and the U.S., as the organization was founded in 1982 by a group of American and Israeli social service professionals and lay volunteers to help Israel’s population of at-risk youth become productive citizens. The youth ELEM serves face tremendous hurdles, and many live below the poverty line or struggle to assimilate as new immigrants. Social service professionals from both counties will collaborate to address the issues in the 2012 report.
ELEM’s network of 250 professionals, almost 2,000 volunteers and 40 programs reaches tens of thousands of youth annually with innovative and comprehensive services, including therapy, mentoring, occupational and educational placement, and vocational training. ELEM also operates a wide network of counseling and support centers, as well as a fleet of outreach vans that take to the streets to reach the hidden “children of the night.”
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