Heartbreaking Billboard Aims To Raise Awareness About Addiction

By Keri Blakinger 12/17/18

The billboard spotlights a brief, powerful message: “Tim Hatley: Addiction Can Lead to Death.”

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The awareness-raising billboard spotlights the story of Tim Hatley who battled addiction.
Photo via WLTV

Amidst the pre-fab buildings and snow of northern Michigan sits a stark reminder for the Hatley family.

It’s a roadside billboard with a simple message: “Tim Hatley: Addiction Can Lead to Death.” 

On a rural road outside the town of Grayling – population 1,800 – the signage is aimed at raising awareness about addiction, using the story of a former high school football player who died by suicide last year after struggling with addiction. 

“When he turned 19 he moved out of my house and moved down the street with a friend and that’s kind of when it all started that he started snorting Norcos,” his mother Karen told CBS affiliate WWTV. “He had a huge addiction with the Norcos, went through three withdrawals with him.”

It started after he was prescribed painkillers for a sports injury. Afterward, he kept using the pills and pain management gave way to a larger problem. After more than a decade of drug misuse, he turned from opioids to meth, his mother said. 

A month before his death, he had a psychotic episode. On Dec. 30 of last year he killed himself.

“His fiancé had called me and said ‘he’s gone’ and hung up on me. And I was like ‘what is she’s talking about?’” Hatley told the TV station. “I called my husband and said ‘you need to come home now.’ So, he came home, and when he walked in he was crying, and just shook his head and I fell to the ground.”

So this year, she paired up with the Crawford County Partnership for Substance Abuse Prevention to put up a billboard reminding passersby of her son’s story and offering a solution. “If you need help, recovery starts here. Call 1-800-834-3393,” the sign says.

“I chose the billboard going towards the high school because I want kids on a bus to see that every single day, and I want parents to get the message that you know, you’re [sic] kid doesn’t have to be a troubled kid to end up this way,” Hatley said. “This loss is the worst thing I’ve ever had to go through, and I don’t want anyone else to go through this.”

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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