Staff

Ely Hernandez

Executive Director: Ely Hernandez, MSW (she/her)

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Originally from Mexico City, Ely came to the U.S. when she was 13 years old and grew up in Texas. She then moved to Seattle where she attended the University of Washington for her bachelor’s degree and then attended the University of Michigan for her master’s degree in Social Work.

As a queer, immigrant, woman of color who grew up in a working class family, Ely personally understood the challenges of her communities but was also able to experience the strengths, hope, resilience and successes. As part of her professional life, she spent almost a decade in clinical direct services where Ely continued to see the barriers that her communities had to wellness. Ely came to the WRA since her belief that the community should drive the work is a perfect fit for the WRA values about bringing lived experiences to decision making tables everywhere. Ely is extremely grateful to work alongside the recovery community to further pro-recovery policy and community education in order to fulfill the mission of the WRA: make recovery a reality for all. 

Strategy Director: Lauren Davis (she/her)

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Lauren grew up in King County and first became passionate about behavioral health advocacy when she served as the primary caregiver to her best friend Ricky Garcia, who was gravely ill with untreated alcohol and opiate addiction, and unable to get the care he needed because of the way our system works. Today, Ricky is in long-term recovery.

When Ricky got better, Lauren got to work fixing the system gap that nearly cost his life. She championed HB 1713, named “Ricky’s Law,” which was signed by Governor Inslee in 2016. The legislation created an involuntary crisis commitment system for youth and adults with life-threatening addiction. Ricky’s Law represents one of the largest single investments in addiction treatment in Washington state history. Lauren was recognized with the 2016 Hero Award from the Washington Council for Behavioral Health.

Lauren helped found the Washington Recovery Alliance in 2014, and now serves as the Strategy Director. She is a strong champion for mental health and addiction recovery and reforming the criminal justice system. She is a Fulbright Fellow, and has the honor of serving as a State Representative for Washington’s 32nd District.

Heather

King County Recovery Coalition Director: Heather Venegas (she/her)

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Heather Venegas is a servant leader in long-term recovery, and has lived experience with both substance use and mental health. She is passionate about the transformative power of recovery and loves to help others experience the gifts that recovery has given her. Heather joined the King County Recovery Coalition as the first Director in 2018.

Heather is active in global service travel as well as being of service locally. She brings joy, creativity and compassion to all she does. Heather is a woman of many talents: she’s a skilled speaker, teacher, coach, and even an ordained minister! She has a Master’s Degree in Consciousness Studies from Holmes Institute. She is passionate about and deeply committed to our vision of making recovery a reality for everyone.

Theresa

Programs & Operations Manager: Theresa Sundin (she/her)

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Born and raised in the PNW, Theresa has lived in Washington State since 2015. In that time, she has worked in community-based human services and advocacy organizations that center around social and economic justice for working-class Washingtonians. Theresa has a background in program development & delivery, volunteer management, and partnership-building, and she joined the WRA team in November 2019.

Theresa is passionate about empowering others and emboldening change-makers within their communities, actions she is thrilled to experience every day at the WRA. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration at Seattle University, anticipating completion by the end of 2020.

Ashley Fontaine

Strategy & Communications Advisor: Ashley Fontaine (she/her)

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Ashley is passionate about behavioral health system reform and peer-led work in recovery. She has a Master of Social Work focused on Community Health & Urban Development from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is the former Executive Director of NAMI Seattle. She brings more than 13 years of nonprofit expertise and a decade of experience in mental health spaces – plus personal and family experience with all things behavioral health.

She is dedicated to leadership development and creating communications that reflect the personality and values of nonprofit organizations. Ashley has extensive experience in communications, culture creation, coaching emerging leaders, and organizational change management. In 2019 she started her own business offering nonprofit communications and strategy support, and has been working with the WRA ever since! She is Washington grown and grateful to work on meaningful policy advocacy in the state she is proud to call home.

Kalyssa

Advocacy & Operations Intern: Kalyssa Eversman (she/her)

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Born and raised in Japer, Indiana, Kalyssa moved to Seattle on a whim after she completed her undergraduate degree at Indiana University. While working at a local insurance company, she realized her true passion was public service and is now in her final year working towards a Master’s in Public Administration at the University of Washington. She is studying the intersection of criminal justice reform, behavioral health systems, housing, and education policy through a racial equity lens, and strives to create space and center the voices of individuals with lived experiences. Kalyssa believes that storytelling and human connection is a pivotal part of policy advocacy and successful systems change. She is thrilled to be working with the WRA’s amazing team implementing these beliefs to make recovery accessible for all.

Social Work Intern: Hillary Dealey-Thomason (she/her)

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Hillary is from Salt Lake City, Utah and has been living in Seattle for 9 years. She graduated from the University of Oregon and is currently working towards a Master’s in Social Work at the University of Washington. She has been working at Seattle Children’s Hospital in mental and behavioral health for the past 8 years and is excited for the opportunity to be part of the WRA team!

Board of Directors

Melody Mckee, President

Melody is the Program Director – Behavioral Health Training, Workforce and Policy Innovation Center at the Behavioral Health Institute UW Medicine/Harborview Medical Center. She also serves on the King County Behavioral Health Advisory Board, a volunteer citizen board which works to promote the importance of prevention, treatment, recovery and the de-stigmatization of mental illness and addiction within King County’s BHO.

David Coffey, Vice President (he/him)

David is the Executive Director of Recovery Café. He has guided Recovery Cafe’s programming with the Founders Killian Noe and Ruby Takushi for over 15  years. David also serves on the Mirabella Foundation Board, on the Fundraising Committee of the Food Bank at St. Mary’s, and is the Secretary of the Board Consejo Counseling Services. David is passionate about finding better solutions than incarcerating people for behavioral health disorders.

Jerri Stanley, Secretary

Paulette

Paulette Chausse, Treasurer (she/her)

Paulette Chausse is a Financial Consultant who provides audit and grant compliance support to small Federally Recognized Tribes in rural Alaska. Paulette became passionate about Behavioral Health advocacy after her family experienced the acute SUD of a loved one, and learned how difficult, frustrating, and heart breaking it was to navigate the system. She jumped in with both feet to join the fight to get Ricky’s Law passed. Since then, Paulette has served as Public Policy Chair with the WRA and helped form the Pierce County Recovery Coalition. The words, “until my dying day” often come out of her mouth when she talks about her continued fight for those who struggle with Behavioral Health challenges and advocating for how our state addresses their needs.

Steve Daggett

Steve Daggett, SUDP is a driven substance use disorder counselor in long-term recovery that lives to the ideal that recovery simply means “I am better today than I was yesterday and I am doing everything possible to be better tomorrow than I was today.” Steve’s creativity and energy combined with compassion and a strong desire to remind the recovery community that we don’t have to do this alone creates a network of caring and connection. After retiring from the Navy he stayed to continue his work with the Substance Use Disorder community. He is currently the clinical supervisor for the Substance Use Disorder programs at Sunrise Services, Inc, a Community based Behavioral Health provider in the North Sound area. Steve is also the Chairman of the Camano, Whidbey Island Recovery Coalition and Acting Chair of the North Sound Recovery Coalition.

Brad Finegood (he/him)

Brad Finegood, MA, LMHC, is Strategic Advisor at Public Health- Seattle& King County.  He oversees the public health response to substance use and overdose prevention.  In this role he recently served as a co-chair of the King County Heroin and Prescription Opiate Task Force. He received his bachelor’s from Michigan State University and his master’s in community agency counseling with a specialty in alcohol and drug abuse from Western Michigan University. Finegood has worked in the behavioral health field for 20 years in both substance use disorder and mental health. He has provided direct service in multiple modalities including prevention, outpatient, residential and medication-assisted treatment, both in institutions and the community. In November 2017, Finegood was named one of the thirty most innovative influential people in Seattle by Seattle Magazine. Most importantly, he is the sibling and survivor of a younger sibling that passed away of an overdose.

Michele Gerber

Michele Gerber (she/her)

Dr. Michele S. Gerber retired from the Hanford Site in 2011. Her research and writing supported many major cleanup projects, and she wrote the technical volume that resulted in B Reactor becoming a National Historic Landmark. She also provided the historical research behind a successful class-action lawsuit on health effects in Washington State. She authored a best-selling book that has been published in four editions, and has consulted nationally and internationally to multiple government and private entities. In retirement, she is President of the Benton Franklin Recovery Coalition. Her principal interest is in breaking barriers and creating opportunities for persons with Substance Use Disorder (or addiction), erasing stigma and educating about addiction as a disease.

Ed Petersen

Ed is a retired Air Force Veteran of 23 years. He was a high school math teacher and then a high school administrator, both as an assistant principal and principal for six years retiring in 2012. He is a proud father of a son in long term recovery. Ed has been the President of the local non-profit Seattle Chapter of Not One More, working to raise overdose awareness. He is also a member of the Pierce County Opioid Task Force and a founding member of the Pierce County Recovery Coalition. Ed is passionate about educating our communities and finding ways to  provide on demand access to treatment facilities and care.

Cody B. West (he/him)

Cody is the Program Director for Peer Seattle, and brings a wide set of experiences from the private sector ranging from Accounting & Finance, Human Resources, Training & Development, Employee Relations and Management. He has been active in the Seattle recovery community for many years, providing services as a volunteer, peer group facilitator, peer recovery coach, trainer and tree lot assistant manager. He enjoys empowering individuals to create and sustain a healthy living approach to their lives.

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