Operation Angel offers addicts help instead of handcuffs

Operation Angel offers addicts help instead of handcuffs

(WAFB) - The latest numbers from the East Baton Rouge Coroner's Office reveal 111 people died from a deadly overdose in 2017.

In 2016, 89 people died. The overdose death toll has climbed steadily over the last six years, and most cases are linked directly to opioids, according to Coroner Dr. Beau Clark.

"My biggest concern is the number is still growing. I don't think we've hit the peak yet," said Clark.

Clark says if there is any good news, it's that people are more aware of the opioid epidemic and are doing more than ever to combat it. "A lot of people are becoming very educated about what's going on and they're looking for ways that they can do things to potentially save people's lives," said Clark.

One of those life saving ideas comes from St. Tammany Parish and the Covington Police Department. It's called Operation Angel, and it offers those suffering from addiction a chance at recovery. "Anybody, anytime of the day can walk into their police department, say, 'I'm an addict and I need help' and that police department will help facilitate treatment for them," said Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz.

Under Operation Angel, addicts looking for help can turn in their drugs without fear of being charged. Then the department helps get them into a treatment facility, with or without health insurance. "They're making a change. They're productive members of society. We as taxpayers now aren't providing them for their incarceration expenses. It just warms my heart. They get another opportunity," said Lentz.

Operation Angel was launched in spring of 2016. Nearly two years later, more than 100 people from all over the state have taken their first step towards recovery by walking through the doors of the police department.

"If you call our agency, we'll help you," said Lentz.

Operation Angel is available through any St. Tammany Parish law enforcement agency. For more information, contact the Covington Police Department at 985-892-8500.

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