With nothing but ‘horror stories’ available, Seattle parent creates needle website
Lauri Watkins is raising her 9-year-old son Oscar in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood where part of their daily life includes trips to Cal Anderson Park.
It’s a park that has become notorious for drug use.
“In 2015, there were three overdoses over the course of one weekend in the park,” Watkins said. “So, that’s our park and he’s seen some stuff.”
Piles of used needles are a continuing problem and something she first experienced with her son years ago.
“I don’t remember whether I saw it first or we were together … He was around three or four and I thought, OK, let’s have this conversation because I don’t want him touching it.”
But she admits she didn’t know exactly how to handle it back then.
“I didn’t know what to do with it. I feel terrible admitting it, but the first dozen times [I saw] a needle [I was] like, OK, let’s not touch it and kept walking and I didn’t deal with the problem. And now, I’m like, great, I left it for other people.”
Last year, a pathway at Lowell Elementary — her son’s school — was closed down because of issues with waste, including needles. That’s when she realized just how big an issue this was.
Watkins points out that schools send home packets of information about nutrition and other issues families may face. Why not send home information about needles, too?
During a PTA meeting, the school district gave an update on the cleanup efforts and measures being taken, such as installing fencing, to keep drug users off the path. But Lauri had another question: Is the issue being talked about at school?
“I kind of got that look like, oh gosh, that’s a thing we should do, isn’t it?”
Watkins took to the Internet, hoping to find something quickly. After a few hours, she realized there was no “one-stop shop” for information on dealing with used needles. There were just hundreds of “horror stories” about children finding them.
Watkins, being a believer in taking action when she sees a problem, took the matter into her own hands. She did more research and compiled it all on her website See A Needle. It launched just in time for the school year.
The site includes the basics on what children should do if they find a needle. It also includes information for adults and additional resources.
Watkins knows not all parents are going to want to address these issues with their children. She says that as long as their children know enough not to touch the needles, their parents are protecting them.
Lauri says she would like to see information like what’s on the website in school districts. But for now, she just wants to get the word out.