SEATTLE – A local mother felt like she had to do something to protect her child after repeatedly finding used needles and drug paraphernalia around her neighborhood.
Lauri Watkins created a website to teach parents how to talk to their kids about needles – and teach kids what to do when they find them.
Watkins’ website and comic message for kids – if you see a needle, don’t touch it and go tell an adult right away.
But her efforts are not the first time local parents have decided to take on the problem of themselves.
“It is not a them problem, it’s an us problem,” said Watkins.
Watkins lives on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. She and her son have run across used needles during walks inside Cal Anderson Park and along sidewalks.
“We have occasionally found needles on the inside of the chain link fence, or the field finding they play on,” she said.
And after a quick search online she found dozens of articles about kids being pricked by used needles – but nothing about teaching prevention to children.
“So I said, this needs to exist let me see what I can do.”
That’s when Watkins created the website. It also showcases a graphic she hopes other parents will use to talk to their kids about the dangers of discarded drug paraphernalia.
“It’s happening everywhere,” said Watkins. “There’s no community in the U.S. that is not touched by the epidemic.”
Just last month in Everett volunteers scoured a local park to find and dispose of discarded needles.
The effort was sparked by a local Facebook group bound to take back their own neighborhood.
“It definitely opened my eyes to when I take the kids to the park I never thought I needed to check something like that,” said one mother.
The problem is so prevalent in Snohomish County the local health district now offers needle clean-up kits for free.
Watkins hopes her website spreads far and wide before parents are faced with a situation where their child picks up a used needle without knowing the potential dangers.
“If parents can preempt those injuries by teaching their children before they see one on the street, what it is and what to do, I’ll really be able to feel like I’ve made a difference,” said Watkins.
Anyone who comes across discarded needles they don’t want to pick up, public agencies in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties suggest calling for help.