A North Texas woman is channeling grief over her daughter’s death into an awareness campaign over the dangers of fentanyl-laced pills.
Patricia Saldivar described her daughter Cassandra as a sweet and quiet young woman. The 22-year-old was the youngest of three siblings and a mother to a two-year-old boy.
“She loved her baby so much. She was a single mom. She was taking care of him,” Saldivar said.
Saldivar said this past Memorial Day weekend, she was babysitting her grandson for Cassandra when she got a phone call in the early morning hours of June 1.
“Like three in the morning, they called me to tell me she was in the hospital. I’m like…‘why is she at the hospital? They said, we can’t tell you. You have to come,'” she recalled. “When they put you in a room, you already know something’s bad. They told me they tried to revive her and they couldn’t revive her. That she had taken one pill and that was all that it took.”
According to Saldivar, the one pill her daughter took was initially believed to be a Percocet. However, she said she later learned it was laced with fentanyl.
“Horrible. Every day is like having to wake up, knowing she’s not there,” she said. “My daughter, she probably got it from somebody she knew. Somebody she trusted, and it was laced. That person probably didn’t know where he got it from or she got it from. It just goes down the line. You don’t know what you’re taking if you’re taking it off the street.”
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In the wake of her daughter’s death, Saldivar has launched multiple efforts in hopes of spreading awareness on the dangers of fentanyl. She recently paid for a billboard near the AT&T Stadium in Arlington with a smiling photo of Cassandra and a message: “1 pill that’s all it took. Fentanyl kills. R.I.P. 06/01/21. In memory of my beloved daughter Cassandra.”
“There’s a lot of kids coming around, and I want them to see…be like, ‘one pill…that’s all it took’. I want them to be like, ‘what does she mean by that?’ For them to look into that,” she explained.
Saldivar’s message is echoed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. According to the DEA, illicit fentanyl was responsible for nearly 75% of the more than 93,000 fatal drug overdoses in the United States in 2020. On Sept. 27, the DEA issued a Public Safety Alert warning about the increasing availability of fake pills that are more deadly than ever before, and that are easy to purchase, widely available, and often contain deadly doses of fentanyl.
Eduardo Chavez, Special Agent In Charge with DEA Dallas, said public safety alerts are rarely issued by the DEA. This suggests the severity of their message, Chavez said.
“Here in Dallas over the last several years, we have seized over 130,000 pills that contain fentanyl. All of these pills look like, had the right coloring, had the right shape, of some of your prescription painkillers. Yet, they contain fentanyl,” Chavez said. “That’s what we want to make sure the public is aware of. If you are getting a pill from your marijuana source or from a friend or neighbor or buying it via social media and you do not know what you’re getting, you most likely will be a counterfeit pill that potentially contains a lethal dose of fentanyl.”
Aside from the billboard, Saldivar said she has also turned to social media such as TikTok to help raise awareness.
“A lot of people are like…‘What is that? What is fentanyl?’ A lot of parents are like ‘where do they get them from?’ You don’t know. You can get them from schools. I have heard offline,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s because it happened to my daughter that I’m now listening, but I mean, it can happen to anybody.”
Saldivar said she has also taken flyers to local schools sharing her daughter’s story in hopes of preventing more families to go through what their family has experienced.