Parish coalition learns about ‘jail alternative’

Published 4:19 am Friday, May 25, 2018

The Washington Parish Coalition on Human Services heard a presentation from Timothy Lentz, Covington Chief of Police, on “Operation Angel” on Tuesday, May 22, at 9:30 a.m. at Elizabeth Sullivan Memorial Church in Bogalusa. Thirty-five people were in attendance.

The presentation began with a 911 recording from a young mother whose husband had overdosed on heroin. Children were crying in the background, and the mother was barely able to speak through her panic. Lentz’s philosophy at time, in 2015, was that once the person was discharged from the hospital, officers would arrest the person. Lentz said, “There’s got to be a better way to get help.”

After the 911 call, Lentz researched an alternative to sending addicts to jail. He found a program in Glouchester, Mass., called “Operation Angel” and implemented the program in 2016. At any time of the day, an individual can walk into any law enforcement agency in St. Tammany Parish and ask for help. Then officers will facilitate their first step into recovery.

The first year, 132 people walked into the law enforcement agency saying, “I’m an addict, I need help,” said Lentz. Out of those, 38 percent are clean and didn’t go to jail. If you know of someone who has a substance abuse issue, come directly to the Covington Police Department, 609 N. Columbia St. The number of the Covington Police Department is (985) 892-8500.

People who want help are taken to Giving Hope Retreat, located at 31294 Highway 190 in Lacombe.

The coalition attracted representatives from Bogalusa Strong, S.E. Louisiana Legal Office, The Anderson Group, Bogalusa High School, Our Lady of Angels Hospital, Bogalusa Police Department, Florida Parishes Human Services Authority, Well-Ahead, non-profits, Senator Beth Mizell’s office and Head Start.

The next coalition meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 26, at ESM United Methodist Church from 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. A pre-coalition subcommittee meeting will be held at 8:30 a.m., and will focus on prescription drug abuse and underage drinking. The community is invited to both meetings.

The coalition involves people who represent flood recovery, businesses, civic organizations, health care professionals, law enforcement, media, parents, faith organizations, schools, state government agencies, substance abuse organizations, youth and youth-serving organizations, and community-minded individuals. The coalition is open to all.

There is more information available about the Washington Parish Coalition on Human Services by visiting online at, or by liking the coalition on Facebook at WPCHS. Find and follow the coalition on Twitter at, or on Instagram at

Gail Brigham is the second vice president of the Washington Parish Coalition on Human Services.