Deputies and members of the community focus on Operation ASAP - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Deputies and members of the community focus on Operation ASAP

COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Despite being a rural county, deputies say Columbus County has one of the highest prescription drug usage rates in the state. 

They say the county ranked 9th on the east coast just a couple of years ago. Tuesday, they had a meeting to announce a new way they plan to tackle the problem.

This year, nursing students at Southeastern Community College in Whiteville are doing a community project called Operation ASAP, which stands for "alcohol substance abuse prevention." Instead of deputies having their annual prescription drug drop, off they're working with nursing students to make Operation ASAP an outreach program.

Investigators say the county's high unemployment rate and proximity to the South Carolina state line are reasons prescription drug use is high. But they believe by advertising along with getting churches, schools, support groups, and counselors in the same place at the same time they can turn the event into something annually that will save lives. 

"It gives us a different outlook. We're not just about going out arresting the dealers," said Steven Worthington with the Columbus County Sheriff's Office. "We want to start out with the youth, which is the most important thing when it comes to our drug situation. We want to do an outreach program instead of just dealing with dealers. We want to reach out to all ages particularly the youth before any problems occur."

Operation ASAP will be on April 27 at Southeastern Community College. 

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