The opioid crisis is not just something theoretical for Louis Harris.
It came all too close to being an unfortunate reality.
Harris, who works for the state Department of Social and Health Services, grew up in Marysville. As a person of color, he faced what he called certain “socialization challenges that would lead me in a direction that is obviously not the best.”
The summer after he graduated from high school, Harris was a passenger in a car with some friends who had been drinking.
They got into a wreck. Harris said he was hospitalized for a month and paralyzed. He went through surgeries, rehab and therapy and was able to start walking on crutches by December of that year.
He’s now fully recovered from that accident. But he looks back on it as a time where he could easily have become another victim of the opioid crisis.
“I was two skips from falling down that path,” Harris said. “Being handicapped and in pain, I was on prescribed pain medication on a ridiculous level.”
It’s from this point of view that Harris looks at the debate over heroin injection sites. He understands why people would oppose these sites. But he doesn’t think that should be the end of the conversation. He thinks that society needs to look to new possibilities and solutions to problems plaguing society.
The wreck also made Harris reassess his life; it was an opportunity to focus on the community and to live a life with more ambition.
While he works at DSHS, Harris has also been involved in many community organizations. He is the vice president of the Snohomish County Branch of the NAACP, treasurer of the Snohomish County Young Democrats and Snohomish County Black Heritage Committee co-chairman.
“I’m not a tech guy, I’m kind of the de facto tech guy for the NAACP, because I’m 30 years old,” Harris said.
He’s also worked on several other community projects, most notably Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin’s transition team, the Nubian Jam and the City of Lynnwood Task Force on Communities of Color and Police Relations.
He’s also part of a group of entrepreneurs developing an app called MyCityVoice to allow voters to give feedback directly on what’s happening at the municipal level.
He also plans to enter elected office in the future.
“The reality is my pathway is in politics,” Harris said. “All of this community work, all of this business work is giving me experience for when I get into office. That’s my goal.”
As a leader involved in these organizations, Harris said he aims to come from a place of “love and sharing and authenticity and human connection.” He jokes that if you come to a few community meetings with him he’ll likely give you a hug.
He sees himself as helping raise others around himself.
“My philosophy is I will be successful when everybody around me is successful,” Harris said.