On Saturday Sept. 17, people from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C., to demand action from national leaders on the spike in fentanyl deaths. The event was organized by a group called Lost Voices of Fentanyl, and among those gathered were about 20 members of the Forgotten Victims of North Carolina, a state-based grassroots group of mostly mothers whose children were lost to fentanyl poisoning. 

Patricia Drewes, who is part of Lost Voices of Fentanyl and is also the organizer of Forgotten Victims of North Carolina, told Carolina Journal on Sept. 19 that about 700 marched from the National Mall to the White House. Drewes daughter, Heaven Leigh Nelson, died of fentanyl poisoning in 2019.

During the day of action, Drewes said she met with multiple congressional leaders and their staff. Drewes said they wanted to meet with members of both parties, but Democrats were more hesitant to meet.

Drewes and her group are advocating for harsher penalties on fentanyl distributors and for China and the Mexican cartels to be held responsible, policies that may be less palatable to Democrats. The staff of retiring Rep. David Price, D-NC04, was an exception, and Drewes spoke with them on the issue.

Drewes and other leaders from around the country were then hosted by the Republican Study Committee at a roundtable event regarding how to address the fentanyl crisis. Four of the nine guest speakers and participants were from North Carolina.

At the RSC roundtable, Drewes said she prepared a short audio but that it wouldn’t play.

“I’ll tell you what it was,” Drewes recalled telling them. “It’s the sound of a mother screaming that just saw her child being taken out in a body bag that was poisoned by fentanyl. I made that same cry or scream on Jan. 28, 2019. Every mother in this room has made that same God-awful scream. 108,000 American mothers made that scream in the United States last year alone. How many of us have to scream? How many of us have to bury our children before you heard us?”

Drewes also presented the RSC with a large box of obituaries from those that were lost, which she had collected from across the country.

“I told them, ‘I was going to mail this to the president. But I knew that he would probably never receive them. I knew that he would never receive them. So I am entrusting you to see to it that he gets these.’ So Jim Banks [a congressman from Indiana who serves as the chairman of the Republican Study Committee] is the one that actually took the obituaries to see to it that the president got them.”

She said that the committee agreed with the group that more has to be done and announced that they are working on a bill to address rainbow fentanyl, which is directly marketed to children and looks like candy.

“We want fentanyl labeled as a weapon of mass destruction,” Drewes said. “We want the Mexican cartel labeled as terrorists, because that’s what they are.”

Drewes said that she had been scheduled for an interview on FOX News but that the death of Queen Elizabeth bumped her segment. She joked that the media was apparently more interested in a queen’s death overseas than tens of thousands by fentanyl on our own shores.

“But kudos to FOX News,” she said. “They did cover us all day on Saturday.”