ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Operator: "911, What's your emergency?"
Caller: "My husband is overdosing right now. I need an ambulance."
Operator: "What's he taking?"
Caller: "Oh my God. I think he's taken heroin."
The chilling 911 call happened about a year ago in Covington when a woman found her husband unresponsive after overdosing on heroin.
Operator: "Mam, what's going on?"
Caller: "Oh my God. He just overdosed."
Operator: "What did he overdose on?"
Operator: "Ok, listen, we have an ambulance on the way. Where is he at?"
Caller: "He's on the floor."
Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz said he found the call especially disturbing.
"Yeah, that call really shook me when I heard it and listened to it," Lentz said. "I heard how frantic that woman was. You could hear the children crying in the background."
Operator: "Where is the needle? Did he use a needle to do this?"
Caller: "Well, I don't know where it's at."
Operator: "OK, I'm just worried because I hear a baby crying in the background."
Lentz said paramedics arrived, and so did his officers.
"For me, I could almost feel this man dying on the phone, and then I realized that he got treatment," Lentz said. "He went to the hospital. They discharged him, and we arrested him. We put him in jail and then arrested her. We put her in jail and took the kids away from her. What did we solve? Yeah, they had heroin and I understand it's a crime, but they're suffering from a disease. It's a disease that may not be curable, but it's treatable.".
It was that 911 call that prompted Lentz to begin Operation Angel, a program allowing addicts to walk into any law enforcement agency in St. Tammany Parish and ask for help without fear of being questioned or arrested.
"To us, their lives have meaning, their lives have value, and if we can save one person out of this program, then it's worth it," Lentz said.
Since May 2, 65 people have joined the program. Lentz said that number should show how desperate the drug users must be. Most of them, he said, are heroin addicts.
"I've dealt with heroin cases throughout my career. You used to see one or two cases a year and that was a lot. Now, it's almost daily. It's an epidemic, and it's taken over not just my community but the country as a whole," Lentz said.
In St. Tammany, 17 people died of a heroin overdose last year. Six overdose deaths involved heroin that had been cut with fentanyl, a Schedule II narcotic that's extremely potent.
"That's just St. Tammany. We had three murders last year, but 17 people died of a heroin overdose," Lentz said.