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Face of fentanyl epidemic: Mother loses three children to drug overdoses
BATON ROUGE - She's the face of the fentanyl epidemic gripping our community and country.
Pam Rivas has lost three of her children to drug overdoses over the years. Two of her kids died two weeks apart in July 2021.
Her son Matthew McCallister died of a methadone overdose in 2006. Her daughter Danielle McCallister died of a fentanyl overdose in 2021, and weeks later, her son Shawn Rivas also died due to fentanyl.
"It's one of those things that I can't put into words, Chris," Rivas said. "There really aren't any words to describe what you go through as a parent when a child you carried in your womb, nursed on your breast, and you've been to their soccer games...just dies. It's something you have to walk through, and it's a living hell on earth and nothing I want anyone else to experience."
Last year, 100,000 people died of fentanyl overdoses in the U.S. Baton Rouge had 291 deaths. At the end of February 2023, the parish was up to 39 fentanyl-related deaths, with many more pending toxicology results.
Rivas' push for reform has her meeting with lawmakers at the Capitol in hopes of stiffening penalties.
"The way that I digest it is my faith," Rivas said. "I have to trust the deaths of my kids to God. I believe he will birth something good for other people through it."
Last month, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's detectives arrested a suspected prolific drug dealer who is accused of supplying the streets with fentanyl. When Frank Beauchamp was arrested, he was already out on two other bonds accused of doing the same thing.
"It's a poisoning," Rivas said. "Fentanyl is being illicitly produced, and it's poison. It's being mixed in marijuana, Adderall, cocaine and everything, so when someone buys something from a dealer, they have no idea what they are getting."
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