Addiction treatment center to open

Published 3:46 am Wednesday, November 13, 2019

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Although the weather was in the frigid 30s Tuesday morning, it didn’t keep more than 100 community members and officials from coming out to the welcome ceremony for the Woodlake Addiction Recovery Center facility in Bogalusa.

The center, which is opening at 400 Memphis St. in Bogalusa, will offer a full continuum of care of addiction and recovery services. It will be housed in the vacated Our Lady of the Angels “charity hospital.”

The facility will have 50 inpatient beds, and also offer outpatient services and medical detox treatment.

Woodlake Addiction Recovery Center officials estimate that the new center will add 50 jobs, and treat more than 1,000 patients annually. This will be the fourth location for Woodlake Addiction Recovery in Louisiana. Other sites are in Abbeville, Ethel and Lafayette.

Gov. John Bel Edwards was present at Tuesday’s ceremony, and said that the facility is something that is much needed for Washington Parish and the Northshore. This parish is No. 1 in the state in per-capita deaths due to opioid abuse, and St. Tammany Parish is No. 2.

“The services that (this center is) going to provide will positively change lives,” he said. “And I have no doubt, it will save lives as well.

“We have a long road ahead of us in fighting addiction. But I’m optimistic between the public, the private, and the non-profit sectors, we’re going to continue making huge progress across the state of Louisiana.”

Edwards and State Rep. Malinda White both said that the center has been in the works for years. Discussion about a possible center began as soon as Our Lady of the Angels Hospital moved its remaining services to the renovated main hospital at 433 Plaza St. in Bogalusa.

“It’s with great pride that I stand here today on a day that I thought it would be a cold day in hell before it happened,” White joked to those who crowded under a tent and braved the weather. “It’s just a cold day in Louisiana. Today’s the day.”

White said that she did not have to prepare a speech for Tuesday’s ceremony, because the opioid crisis is something that has been on her heart for years. She noted that she has previously been a CASA (court-appointed special advocate) volunteer and has seen what drug addiction can do to destroy families in the parish.

“It’s affected my family, it’s affected your families, it’s affected our friends,” she said, of the drug crisis and especially the opioid epidemic. “It’s impacted everyone that we know in some way, or another.”

White said that Washington Parish is 10 times the national average in babies born with addictions. She states that one goal of the center is to have a way to address those young drug-addicted mothers early in their pregnancies.

“I have been persistent because I know what’s down the streets and behind the doors in my district,” she said. “Our babies are being born into a world that they have not chosen, nor did they choose to take the drugs while their mom was expecting. We’ve got to deal with that — that’s why I call it ‘pro-life for the whole life.’

“That’s what today is about — saving lives.”

Rene Ragas, CEO of Our Lady of the Angels Hospital, said that the hospital has been excited to be involved in the process of bringing Woodlake Addiction Recovery’s services to Bogalusa.

“This has been a long road … but this is really going to be a great thing for our community,” he said. “The substance abuse epidemic in our communities is something that we must work together to address.

“This partnership will bring a once-busy medical center back to life, and also meet a great need at the same time.”

Randy Gomez, CEO of Woodlake Addiction Recovery Center, said that he is hopeful the location will be able to start helping parish residents as soon as possible.

“Our goal is to help people that can’t help themselves,” he said.

Dr. Garland Anderson, a family medicine physician with Our Lady of the Angels Hospital, said that he has personally seen the need for a facility like this. He noted that in one weekend, there were over 40 opioid-related cases seen in the OLOAH emergency room, and the majority of those cases were overdoses.

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