Cassandra Saldivar passed away after taking a pill laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.
A Texas mom is raising awareness about the dangers of the drug fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, after the death of her young daughter. Cassandra Saldivar died in June after taking a counterfeit Percocet pill laced with fentanyl. She was 22 years old. Her mom Patricia Saldivar rented a billboard near the AT&T football stadium in Arlington to raise awareness about the deadly drug. A photo of Cassandra is featured on the giant billboard alongside the message: "1 pill that's all it took. Fentanyl kills. R.I.P. 06/01/21. In memory of beloved daughter Cassandra." The reason she picked a spot close to the home to the Dallas Cowboys is that many people drive by the area, especially during football season. Patricia has also made fliers with warnings about fentanyl and has handed them out at local schools.
Patricia has been devastated since the death of her daughter. "I was in the house for two months, could not get out of bed, could not get off the couch, and I said, 'I have to do something for her, something for others,'" Patricia, of Arlington, told PEOPLE. "I have to do something so her death is not in vain. Before this, I didn't know about people getting laced drugs. I was like 'if I had known, I would have educated my children.'" The grief-stricken mother paid $2,100 for the billboard, which went up in late September. "I feel like I am doing something for her, to keep her memory alive," she shared "It can happen to anybody and she was so young," she said of her daughter, whom she described as "so funny and very quiet, very mellow."
In her grief, Mom is doing all she can to save lives, a strong hero! My condolences to her 💔— Jnoelis (@Jnoelis) October 7, 2021
The billboard will be taken down on October 19 but Patricia is raising funds to pay for more time and has set up a GoFundMe page. "I've had people message me saying, 'I'm an addict. I'm going to try to get rehab, I don't want to die. I don't want this pill to be the last pill I take,'" said Patricia. "I feel good that I'm doing something... that I'm being Cassandra's voice."
Officials announced last month that they had seized more than 1.8 million counterfeit pills during a series of raids throughout the country since August. According to Good Morning America, DEA administrator Anne Milgram said at a Sept. 30 press conference. that the amount of fentanyl-laced pills seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration over two months was enough to kill 700,000 people. "We cannot stress enough the danger of these counterfeit pills," Milgram said. "We're seeing these pills being illegally sold in every state in the United States. They are cheap, they are widely available, they can be purchased online and on social media -- so through people's phones, and they're extremely dangerous." According to the DEA, the pills are made in such a way as to resemble real prescription opioid medication like Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Xanax, or stimulants like Adderall. More than 93,000 people have died of a drug overdose in the country last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, with fentanyl being the primary cause.