Pataskala Police Chief Bruce Brooks has spent the past four years working to prevent drug abuse.

Pataskala Police Chief Bruce Brooks has spent the past four years working to prevent drug abuse.

He says it has been time well spent.

"I guess I'm so passionate about it because it so important," Brooks said. "You see a lot of good people who throw their lives away (because of drugs)."

For his efforts, Brooks will receive the 2013 Community Champion Award May 1 from the nonprofit Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Association of Ohio.

Bobby Persinger, director of prevention for Pathways of Central Ohio and vice president of the prevention association, said his organization nominated Brooks because of his commitment to preventing drug abuse in western Licking County. Pathways is a nonprofit organization that provides educational outreach about the harmful effects of drug and alcohol abuse.

"It's very rewarding and nice to be recognized by a group of people who kind of make it their work to do something like that," Brooks said. "It's touching."

Persinger called Brooks "a trailblazer in Licking County" in preventing prescription drug abuse.

"He has gone above and beyond the call of duty all in an effort to ensure the health, happiness, safety and security of the citizens of western Licking County, and for that effort, we were proud to nominate Chief Brooks for this statewide honor," Persinger said.

Persinger said Brooks joined Pathways when it initiated the Licking County Prevention Drug task force in 2009.

Brooks organized one of the first National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events in Licking County and established a permanent prescription drug drop-off station at the Pataskala Division of Police on Hazleton-Etna Road, one of only four permanent drop-offs in Licking county.

"We have people very frequently bring in items," Brooks said. "Family members often bring in items after their relatives have passed. If that person was terminally ill, we get garbage bags full of drugs. It's a good thing because a lot of it is things that are being abused today, like opiates and pain medications."

Brooks said preventing drug abuse also helps reduce other crimes, such as theft, that can be related to people trying to sell stolen items and obtain money to buy drugs.

"That's why there are so many thefts," he said. "People that have those addictions; if you can curb the addiction to pain meds, you can slow down a lot of the other crimes."

Persinger said the prevention association's awards are the oldest prevention awards in the state. They have been given out for the past 30 years.