Parents who lost children to fentanyl push for reform

Over 104,000 people died of an overdose in 2021
Posted at 4:00 AM, Mar 10, 2022

MEMPHIS, TN — MEMPHIS, Tenn. — All different names. All different ages. One similar story that no parent should ever have to tell.

The names of Samuel Kirk Brown Jr., Ryan Davis, Parker Rodenbaugh, Peyton Presley Moore, Eric Berlin and Austin Berlin may sound ordinary, but all of them are tragically linked by something that is causing more and more grief for families across the country.

Each of those men died from an overdose of fentanyl or another synthetic opioid. Each of their moms recently sat down for an interview to discuss the pain, the conversations the country needs to have, and the actions they would like to see taken nationwide.


"It just happened in December," said Becky Davis as she wiped away tears discussing her son.

"Pure grief," Janice Berlin said, mourning not one but two sons.

Kelly Presley is living by learning. She had no idea about the drug crisis before her son's death.

"I had never heard of fentanyl," Presley said.


The DEA classifies fentanyl as a synthetic opioid, and it is produced in a lab. It's 100 times more potent than morphine.

Doctors use it in hospitals to manage pain or even sedate someone in the ICU. But because it's cheap to produce, more drug dealers are selling it.

Fentanyl creates a stronger high and a quicker addiction compared to other opioids.

"It's very cheap," Cordie Rodenbaugh said.

Rodenbaugh has been traveling the country since she lost her son to an overdose. She's trying to get people to pay more attention to the fentanyl crisis.

"It only takes a tiny grain to get you addicted. They are putting it in Percocet, Zanax, anything they can," Rodenbaugh said.


"He was just wanting to have fun," April Brown says of her son, Sam.

She wants to get across to parents to talk to their kids.

She says her son wasn't an addict, and he didn't seek out fentanyl. A couple of months into college, he decided to take a Percocet at a party. It was laced with fentanyl, and he died within hours.

"I experimented in college, I didn't have to worry about dying. Now there is no experimenting," Brown said.


Across the country last year, a record 104,000 Americans died from an overdose. Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, are contributing the most to the spike.

Those numbers are attracting attention in Washington.

President Joe Biden has called for $23.5 billion in funding to reduce drug use this year. The money would be used for treatment centers to prevent fentanyl from being sold on the streets.

More treatment centers are a big deal to Becky Davis. Her son died in December, and before his death, doctors tried to get him an open spot in a clinic.

They just recently called back to say there was an opening.

"That was this week that they called," Davis said.

In short, this group of women hopes the country starts waking up.

While they think the president's bipartisan plan is a start, policymakers must do more. They'd like to see stricter penalties for those who deal drugs and more help for border patrol since they are seizing record amounts of fentanyl.

"Don't say, 'It won't be my child.' It might be," Rodenbaugh said