For years, Avi Israel has pushed for opioid settlement money to go into a special fund for addiction treatment. 

Now he will be in a position to influence how money in that special fund will be spent. 

This week, Israel, who lost a son to addiction, was named by New York Attorney General Letitia James as one of her two picks to sit on the new Opioid Settlement Board, which will make recommendations on how $1.5 billion in opioid settlement funds should be spent.

“No one is more qualified in my eyes than Avi Israel to sit on the Opioid Settlement Board and help make recommendations on where these funds should go," James said in a statement.

The Opioid Settlement Board will ultimately have 19 members who will be appointed by the governor, legislative leaders, attorney general, mayor of New York City and state Association of Counties. The commissioners of the Office of Mental Health, the Department of Health and OASAS will also serve as non-voting members.

This year, Israel helped advocate for a new law establishing that funds collected by the state from opioid settlements or litigation be allocated specifically for abatement efforts in communities devastated by the opioid epidemic. 

“It’s huge to me,” Israel said. “I would really like to thank Attorney General Letitia James for giving me this opportunity.”

Avi and his wife Julia are founders of the group “Save the Michaels of the World," named after their son who died in 2011.

Michael David Israel was diagnosed with severe Crohn’s Disease when he was 12 years old. The Mayo Clinic describes Crohn’s as a type of inflammatory bowel disease that causes abdominal pain and severe diarrhea, among other issues. 

By the time Michael was 18, he had undergone several surgeries. According to his father, Michael’s surgeon had prescribed hydrocodone; the family doctor had him on Xanax and the gastroenterologist had prescribed Cymbalta and 18 other drugs for chronic Crohn’s Disease. 

Michael became addicted to the pain pills.

This is from Avi Israel’s testimony to a U.S. Senate Drug Committee:

"In December, of 2010, Michael sat on my bed and said 'pops, I have problems with my pain pills. I think I’m addicted.' I did not know the severity of the problem, and replied 'okay Michael, we’ll tell the doctor next week when we see him.' The following week, I informed his surgeon of Michael’s concern and got a pat on my shoulders, with a comment that 'Michael needs his pills now.' I was politely dismissed."

In January 2011, at the age of 20, Michael had an ileostomy, which is similar to a colostomy. When he left the hospital in February, Michael had a prescription of hydrocodone with three refills, each refill containing 240 pills.

By Easter, weighing just 95 pounds, Michael asked to be taken to an in-patient treatment facility. Because Israel’s insurance wouldn’t pay for more treatment, he was only in the facility for five days.

In May, Michael attempted suicide for the first time, locking himself in the family’s garage with the car running. His mother, Julie, talked him out of it.

On June 4, 2011, Michael finished what he had attempted in May.

Leading up to his death, Michael again asked his opiate counselor to help him get admitted to a facility, but the counselor told Michael there were no beds available for him. 

“Michael handed me the phone. I asked the young lady 'what should we do?' Her reply was wait until Monday or take him to the county hospital," Avi said. "In the meantime, Michael walked to the back of the house, pulled an old shotgun, and locked himself in my bedroom.”

Michael David Israel died of a gunshot wound to the head in his father’s arms.

To honor Michael’s life, Avi and Julie Israel founded “Save the Michaels of the World, Inc.” to help other families going through what they did.

“Treatment right now in New York state is very stale. We’re not trying any new things,” Israel told Capital Tonight. “One and half billion dollars will be able to create so much support and so many new programs to help people get off this merry-go-round.”