‘Operation Angel’ has been slow to catch on in parish

Published 4:18 am Friday, November 18, 2016

Although representatives from both the city of Bogalusa and Washington Parish expressed a willingness to take part in “Operation Angel” in September, nobody in the parish has been able to take advantage of the program yet.

Operation Angel was supposed to guarantee free transportation to a free addiction treatment program operated by the New Orleans Mission, a faith-based organization that has treatment facilities in New Orleans and Lacombe.

A Bogalusa woman, Tori Waldrep, brought the plan to District Attorney Warren Montgomery’s office. Montgomery, along with the sheriff and the city of Bogalusa, agreed to offer transportation for free for anyone who wanted to go to treatment through the New Orleans Mission.

According to the plan, Bogalusa police officers or sheriff’s deputies would drive addicts to the Giving Hope Retreat facility in Lacombe at no cost and without risk of arrest or criminal prosecution.

However, Waldrep and others say neither city nor parish officials have transported anyone anywhere yet.

Waldrep said she tried to get help for someone in October, but got nowhere with the Bogalusa Police Department or the sheriff’s office.

“I had someone say they wanted to get treatment right then,” Waldrep said. “It was the middle of the night, so I called the Bogalusa Police Department dispatch and they hadn’t heard anything about it. I called the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office dispatch and they hadn’t heard anything about it.

“Both places said to call back during business hours. And I was thinking, most addicts, most users, don’t keep business hours. They’re night owls. That’s when they do their thing. Something needs to be in place for 24 hours.”

The New Orleans Mission is open 24-hours-a-day and someone is always available to receive users who want to get clean.

Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette said she supports the program and said she expects a free ride will be available as soon as a new police chief is in place.

“As far as a ride, I have not been able to provide that,” she said. “Once we get a police chief online, they should be able to get a ride then.”

Chief Deputy Mike Haley said the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office has had no calls from anyone.

“We have had no requests come in here that anybody has any recollection of,” he said.

In addition, Haley said the WPSO has had no communication from Operation Angel, although not for a lack of trying.

“(Sheriff’s administrative assistant) Brent (Jones) said he’s had great difficulty from Operation Angel,” Haley said.

Haley said Jones has sent emails and made phone calls, but has never gotten any response from the organization.

Matt Mays, the assistant director of the Lacombe facility said he is not aware of anyone being directed to the facility from the Bogalusa Police Department or from the sheriff’s office.

“No one has come from Bogalusa or Washington Parish and come through here,” he said.

Mays said someone could have come through the New Orleans Mission offices, which are located in that city, but he said they likely would have had to go through the Lacombe offices, as those are the main offices for everyone in the Northshore area seeking treatment.

Some residents are saying the lack of follow-through on the part of the sheriff’s office is hurting people who need help.

“I don’t personally feel like we have a lot of support from the law enforcement,” said Tracy Galloway, who is a drug abuse activist. “I had an incident the other night and I called the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office about Operation Angel and they didn’t know anything about it. The paperwork is still not put through after how many months? And they said as long the lady wasn’t breaking any laws there was nothing they could do.”

Without the support of the sheriff’s office, Galloway said the woman she was trying to help turned to drugs.

“I was put in a situation where I needed help for a female addict and I didn’t have nowhere to take her,” Galloway said. “And that situation didn’t end well. She wanted to be dropped off at the dope dealer’s house and that’s where I took her. I didn’t have any choice.”

Waldrep said, in addition to Galloway’s user and her own, she knows of at least one more person who couldn’t get help through local law enforcement agencies.

However, Mays said anyone could use the program, whether or not they go through the police department or sheriff’s office. He said churches or even private citizens could bring people to their offices.

Perrette said she personally has referred three local people to the program, and she also said anyone who needs assistance can make contact on their own, without the police.

“If you want help there is help, there is a resource. There is a place,” she said.

The Lacombe phone number is 985-218-9485 and the mission hotline is 504-638-5434.