In Memory of Mental Health Advocate DJ Jaffe
Sometimes, there really is not enough time.
About a month ago, DJ and I began working on an Op Ed about why defunding the police and spending money on "feel good wellness social services rather than long term treatment for SMI" was not going to reduce police shootings, help the SMI (seriously mentally ill) population, or make communities or police safer. (If the quote sounds familiar, it's because it's from one of DJ's last emails to me).
He thought my first draft missed the mark and encouraged me to be "laser focused" on the SMI, to hammer home that what was needed was "housing, hospitals, AOT" and reforms to "allow families to keep SMI at home (HIPAA, IVC reform, eliminate 1/3 reduction in social security if family provides housing)."
I was trying to work on revisions, but time ran out. I think my delay and downright writer's block had more to do with DJ and his imminent death, than tackling the topic.
How to do justice to DJ, to make this last piece reflect the courageous positions he took and no-nonsense reforms he championed for more than 30 years? In the end, I missed my chance to help him write another call to action for the SMI population he knew so well.
It is hard to imagine what the mental illness advocacy space will be like without DJ. He was unapologetic, unbossed, unfazed, financially unbeholden, and could have cared less about his standing with any politician or group that did not share his singular goal: to secure treatment for people living with serious, untreated mental illness.
DJ spent the last few weeks of his life, like he spent all the weeks before. Even as his own body failed, he tried to give voice to those with unwell minds.
According to E. Fuller Torrey, DJ's closet friend, DJ asked that anyone wishing to donate in his honor, consider making a donation to the Treatment Advocacy Center. To hear from Fuller Torrey directly, please see below. We hope you will consider making a donation.
Rest in Peace DJ, you have earned it.
Announcing the Loss of DJ Jaffe
A Message from the Board
On behalf of E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., we share the following note:
I am very saddened to let you know that DJ Jaffe died yesterday, August 23. After battling leukemia for more than 15 years – and, knowing DJ, you can bet that it has been a battle - he died quietly at home. Since 1998, when we first started making plans for what became the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), DJ has been the single most effective advocate I have worked with and a close personal friend. His dedication to improving the treatment of people with serious mental illness, based on his experience with his sister-in-law, has been extraordinary. The amount of time and energy he has invested in this mission, first at TAC and then at Mental Illness Policy Org, is legendary. Even as he knew he was dying, DJ said nothing and continued his advocacy efforts.
The remarkable success of his book, Insane Consequences, was a further reflection of his ability to mobilize families to bring about change.
DJ suggested that any memorial tributes be directed to TAC; this can be done by visiting www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/dj_memorial_fund. In addition to the memorial fund, in an effort to honor DJ, my wife and I are creating a new advocacy position at TAC specifically named after DJ. Just as colleges have named professorships, so TAC will have a named advocate position. We are guaranteeing the funding for this position for five years.
DJ's death is a huge loss for all of us.
E. Fuller Torrey, M.D.
To contribute to DJ Jaffe's memorial fund and support continued advocacy of people with serious mental illness, please visit this website.