JANESVILLE, Wis. - The Rock County community came together Wednesday night for a Hope Over Heroin event.
The Rock County Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Task Force put the event on. There were resource booths, local speakers and a candlelight vigil to remember those who had lost their lives to opioid addiction.
Kyle Pucek is a former heroin addict who shared his story with the community.
"I was at my wit's end. No one really knew what was going on with me. People could tell that I was in trouble but didn't really know how to help," he said. "After a couple cries for help, which were hospital visits, my family came together and got me into rehab, and since that day I've been clean."
Pucek said he's been clean and sober for three years and wants to use his story to give others hope.
"The community as a whole is suffering right now from addiction and abuse on a lot of levels," he said. "This is something I have common ground with, and I'm willing to share my experience to help others, to help families."
Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change Director Sarah Johnson said the heroin epidemic in Rock County is growing.
"In 2015, we lost 25 people to opioids in general, prescription pills and heroin," she said. "That's 25 of our mothers and daughters and brothers and sisters and sons and fathers, and 25 of our neighbors that have lost their lives."
Johnson said in talking with law enforcement and medical personnel, the number of deaths is likely to increase this year.
"We're on trend in 2016 to surpass that 25," she said.
Pucek said he doesn't want to see any more people die.
"I think these deaths could help be prevented if people were given the opportunity to maybe change their addictive behaviors into healthy behaviors or just even to get the support they need by knowing what programs are available to get help," Pucek said.
At the event, he shared a personal story to encourage the community to work together.
"A phrase that I grew up with was ‘always be part of the solution or you're part of the problem,'" he said. "And I think that's what's important for me, for this Hope Over Heroin. People need to understand that they do need to be proactive and look to help their community because if they're not, they're actually part of the problem, and they're not allowing their community to heal and be the best that it can."
Johnson said the group is looking to do an event in Beloit in the spring to make sure all areas of the community are reached.
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