Brad Finegood gets a little emotional when talking about the opioid epidemic—and with good reason. His brother, whom he describes as a “good kid” whose struggles with drug addiction started in college, died of an overdose several years ago. Finegood, an addiction counselor who started out working with clients in the criminal justice system, began to question the nation’s punitive approach to drug addiction after his brother’s death, and has since become one of the county’s leading advocates for harm reduction—policies that help people suffering from addiction lead better lives, and stay alive, even as they continue to actively use drugs or alcohol.
“People can’t get better when they’re dead,” Finegood says.
Last year, the county’s heroin task force unanimously approved a set of recommendations that enshrine the harm reduction principle “Better is better.” The recommendations include alternatives to incarceration, expanded access to medication-assisted treatment and, most contentiously, two supervised drug consumption sites, where people could use illegal drugs, including heroin, under medical supervision. A February ballot measure, Initiative 27, would ban safe drug consumption sites in King County. But whatever the election results, Finegood will continue to argue for the kind of harm reduction measures he believes could have saved his brother. King County couldn’t find a more compelling ambassador.
Read about the rest of 2017's Most Influential Seattleites here.