JANESVILLE

Heroin addicts have been called hopeless dope fiends. Austin Smith wants to do something about the hopelessness addicts can feel.

Smith is starting a 12-step Heroin Anonymous meeting in Janesville. He’s calling it Dopeless Hopefiends.

The first meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the 12 and 12 Drop In Center, 402 W. Delavan Drive. Meetings will continue at the same time every Friday.

“If you’re a heroin addict, you’re pretty much the scum of the earth, is how people look at you,” Smith said, so he wants addicts to believe they have reason to feel hope and welcome at the new meeting.

Smith said he’s a heroin addict who has gone straight and has attended too many funerals for overdose victims in the past year in Janesville and Beloit.

“It’s just crazy,” Smith said of the damage heroin is doing in Rock County.

Janesville police report 61 overdoses from heroin and chemically related substances so far this year, 14 of those resulting in death.

Smith has attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in Janesville and Madison, Narcotics Anonymous in Janesville and Heroin Anonymous in Madison.

He believes the 12-step “Big Book” process that AA uses is the best way to help, but he has sensed the alcoholics don’t always feel comfortable with discussions of problems specific to drug addiction, such as use of needles, exposure to diseases, and the spiritual and moral lows addicts experience.

Smith said there are Narcotics Anonymous meetings in Janesville, but the ones he goes to are sparsely attended. He’s hoping the new meeting will do better.

Erin Loveland, director of Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change, said it’s the first Heroin Anonymous she has heard about in Rock County.

Others involved in local addiction-recovery efforts welcomed the new effort and wished Smith success.

While the new meeting focuses on heroin, it’s not closed to other people, Smith said.

“We have alcoholics and other people pop into our meetings up in Madison,” he said. “I’m not looking to turn anyone away who is looking for a solution, because the solution is the same whether it’s alcohol or heroin.”

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