Prior to October 2016, very few people knew Erika Hurt of Hope, Indiana. But by the end of the month, after a photo of her sitting in her car, unconscious with a needle still in her hand, everyone knew the 25-year-old.
In late October, authorities found 25-year-old Erika Hurt unresponsive behind the wheel of her parked car. They also discovered her 10-month-old son crying in the backseat. Officers revived Hurt with Narcan and charged her with child neglect and possession of drug paraphernalia.
While Hurt sat in her car, an officer snapped a photo of her. That photo would become a symbol of the nation’s opioid crisis.
In October 2016, Hurt was discovered passed out in her car.
At the time Town Marshal Matt Tallent debated about what to do with the officer’s photo of Hurt. He decided to release it, as an educational tool.
“My intention with these photos is not to shame the mother, although I realize it may appear embarrassing,” Tallent told FOX 59 in 2016. “I honestly think this picture should be used as an educational tool because I want people to see what this drug is doing.”
Initially Hurt’s mother, Jami Smith, was not pleased when she saw the photo of her daughter, and neither was Hurt. The now 26-year-old was upset that the police department “exposed me and my addiction to the whole world.” Although, one year later, her attitude has changed and she’s thanking them for sharing her photo with the world.
“At this point in my life now, I do think it was a good thing, because I’m able to look back and see that’s who I was, and that was the place it led to,” Hurt told NBC News.
The 25-year-old was charged and given a jail sentence that required she enter rehab.
On October 22, 2017, Hurt shared a post on Facebook which she wrote she had “seriously debated for the past month.” She posted the photo that a year ago not only brought rude comments, which eventually led to the deactivation of her profile, but also acted as a wake-up call.
“I was so hurt and embarrassed. I had no clue that the picture had even been taken,” Hurt said. “But at the same time, it was kind of a really big eye opener to see myself like that.”
She told the Washington Post that the photo helped her see herself in “active addiction” and that coupled with her missing out on a lot of her son’s “firsts” made her realize she needed to get her life together.
Her Facebook post was in celebration of her one year of sobriety.
One year after she was found in her car, Hurt celebrated being sober for one year.
Although it’s hard to tell if Hurt’s photo or similar photos help stop drug use in communities where drug use has become an epidemic, there is evidence that the 25-year-old’s photo helped at least one person, Erika Hurt.
Hurt, who still attends court-mandated rehab as well as self-help meetings is looking forward to her new drug-free life and one day soon petitioning for custody of her son.