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Heroin needles part of life for youth soccer players in Everett

(File, AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
LISTEN: Little League Soccer Coach picks up needles before practice

Soccer practices in Everett aren’t easy for kids and coaches to navigate because of the sheer volume of heroin needles scattered around parks.

Coach Jesse Anderson tells KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that the saddest part is that the kids are getting used to the situation. He coaches youth sports in the Everett area and along with some assistant coaches, they have developed a new pregame routine.

“The other night we were getting ready for practice and we did what we typically do, which is to walk the perimeter of the field just to check for needles,” Anderson said. “About a week before, we found a heroin kit. We typically find needles here and there around the fields. However, the other night I was doing the perimeter walk and I discovered 30-40 needles just 5-10 feet off the field in the bushes.”

“It was something else,” he said. “Not just needles; crack pipes, paraphernalia, drug bags. It was just a disaster scene.”

The Everett community has not been spared from the opioid epidemic plaguing Western Washington and the nation. To the south of Everett, King County has become known for controversy around safe injection sites, overdoses statistics, and other drug-related headlines.

Everett has had its own response to the heroin crisis. Tired of the crowd of tents and drug use outside his store, one business owner posted a “Welcome to Tweakerville” sign on the street. He also started a live Tweakerville camera feed focused on the problem area and documenting the issues there.

Anderson is also not the only Everett resident to spend their time combing public areas and picking up used syringes. For two years, Everett mom Cate Harrington has spent many of her weekends organizing crews to clean up discarded needles and other paraphernalia.

Anderson’s focus is on sports fields. He also makes sure that one of the coaches checks the public bathrooms for used syringes before any of his young players use them.

“Quite frankly, I still don’t know how to break it to these kids,” Anderson said. “But the thing is the kids are used to it now, too. It’s not a surprise … the sad part is, it doesn’t shock the kids.”

Anderson also helps out with the Everett Little League and is taking steps to teach all the coaches protocols for checking ball fields before games.

“It’s just a matter of time before someone gets stuck on (a needle), well, I’m sure it’s happened before, but it’s going to happen more frequently,” he said.

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