LUMBERTON, N.C. (WBTW) — Officials in Robeson County hope overdoses will drop as authorities target drug dealers in the area.

Tackling the drug issue in the county has been a priority for Sheriff Burnis Wilkins since he took office.

The RCSO helped Fairmont police to arrest Charlton Townsend, who authorities called a “major” dealer of fentanyl in the area.

“When you’re trying to help the addicted, you’ve got to go after the problem that’s caused them to be addicted,” Wilkins said. “When drugs are the major component to the majority of the crime in your county, that’s exactly what I’m going after.”

Drug overdoses and deaths continue to be an issue in Robeson County and across the country. Fentanyl is behind many of those overdoses.

“We’ve seen an increase in overdose responses,” director of Robeson County EMS Patrick Cummings said. “I would say in the last five years, our call volume has almost tripled in overdose responses. What our first responders see when they arrive are mostly heroin, fentanyl overdoses.”

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control recently released a report showing overdose deaths increased nearly 60% from 2019 to 2020. DHEC linked the spike to fentanyl.

“I’ll generally see one to two a day,” said Justin Hanson, who works in the emergency department at Grand Strand Medical Center. “But it depends on what’s out there to be honest with you. Sometimes I’ll see three to four in one shift.”

Hanson said opioid overdoses can trigger organ disfunction and brain death, depending on how long organs go without oxygen.

“You can get a lot of different things that are mixed in with this heroin that often the person buying the heroin has no idea its in there,” Hanson said.