1938 - 2020
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SMITH ETHEL LOUISE JONES SMITH "Effie" On Friday, September 11, 2020, Ethel Louise Jones Smith "Effie", Founder and Executive Director of Consumer Action Network (CAN) and stalwart advocate in the Washington, DC mental health community, passed away at the age of 82. Ethel Louise Jones Smith was born on March 31, 1938 in Anderson County, South Carolina. She was the daughter of the late Bessie Jones Smith and Elijah Traymon, and was raised and adopted by David Smith. At an early age, Ethel was a member of the Mountain Springs Baptist Church. She graduated from Spearman Public High School in 1957, during which time she cleaned houses and babysat. After graduation, she worked at Martin's Manufactory where she quickly realized that type of work was not for her and she was ready to move on and "get out of dodge". "Aunt Bubba," as she was affectionately known by her nieces and other family members, relocated to Charlotte, NC and attended beauty school. Again, she determined this was not her calling, and she moved to Washington, DC, a city she first visited on her high school senior trip. It was the late 60's, and she pursued opportunities in television broadcasting and freelance photography. During this stage of her life, Ethel began to be known as "Effie" to all she met professionally and personally. Effie's passionate advocacy for mental health formally started with her membership in the Dixon Stakeholder Group in 1999, where she lent her skills to design protocols for monitoring DC mental health system performances. Over the last two decades, Effie was a powerful force for collaboration and change, offering her expertise and insights to the DC Department of Behavioral Health in multiple ways to improve mental health services, including serving on the Director's Partnership Council, the Mental Health Block Grant Planning Council, and the St. Elizabeth's Performance Improvement Initiative. She held positions in a large number of DC-based mental health policy committees, boards, task forces, and teams, and approached each one of these opportunities with the passion and vigor that became her trademark. She served on President Obama's Transition Team for Disabilities in 2008, on the Board of Directors of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, as a member of the Advisory Council for the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness program, and many other organizations. In 2002, Effie worked with her collaborators, Mary Blake and Mary Hathaway, to launch a new peer-run, not-for-profit called Consumer Action Network (CAN). Incorporated in 2003, CAN serves as a vehicle through which individuals receiving mental health services and their families can be heard and engage in self-advocacy, employment, and self-directed, person-centered care. After its launch, the organization become a major force in bringing the concepts of recovery, empowerment, and self-directed care to consumers, family members, service providers, and policy makers across DC. CAN was Effie's passion, and she dedicated herself to the vision and mission for 17 years. In 2006 and 2007, CAN received the Timothy Coakley Leadership Award from the American College of Mental Health Program Administrators for its work to promote entrepreneurship opportunities for individuals with psychiatric disabilities. Under Effie's leadership, CAN developed opportunities for engaging on issues related to homelessness and for hiring individuals experiencing homelessness. Effie also spearheaded efforts to address the needs of women with histories of trauma, substance use, and mental health challenges who were incarcerated in the DC jail. Similarly, Effie led much of CAN's work to promote recovery, self-advocacy, and empowerment of individuals receiving care at St. Elizabeth's Hospital. She assisted in the development of the hospital's Patient Advisory Group and the Department of Behavioral Health's transition planning team to facilitate the transition of patients to community-based care. Despite the time commitments required by her leadership of CAN and her engagement on countless boards and committees, Effie was always available to individuals who called upon her for assistance and support. She went out of her way to meet people where they were in their struggles, providing everything from a much-needed hug to advice on how to draft a letter to the President requesting disability assistance for a veteran. Her tireless effort to improve service quality and to promote new opportunities for empowerment and recovery have left an indelible mark on DC. She will be greatly missed. Effie is survived by her sister Lenora Robinson, loyal sister-in-law, Dorothy Smith, niece Letice Smith, dedicated niece Aletha Smith Simpson (Corey), her special girl - great niece Novah Simpson and her nephews Walter Smith, Jr. and Bernard Smith. Effie was preceded in death by her parents Bessie Jones Smith, David Smith, and Elijah Traymon; her sister Lila Smith; her brothers Walter Smith, Sr. and Elijah Traymon, Jr.; her nephews Michael Robinson and Edward Robinson; and an abundance of other relatives and friends that treasure and respect her memory. A private service will be held in South Carolina at a later date. In lieu of floral arrangements or monetary contributions to the family, you may go to to leave your condolences. Please click on Ms. Smith's obituary page to do so. Thank you for your love and friendship during this time in our lives. The FamilyIn lieu of floral arrangements or monetary contributions to the family, you may go to to leave your condolences. Please click on Ms. Smith's obituary page to do so. Thank you for your love and friendship during this time in our lives. The Family

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Published in The Washington Post on Sep. 25, 2020.
Memories & Condolences
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9 entries
October 7, 2020
I referred people Effie to assist people with mental health challenges and their families who were struggling with navigating the mental health system. Everyone who spoke with her and her staff were relieved. She treated them with dignity, respect, and understanding. I will miss her and her dedication to helping others. RIP, you were angel on Earth.
michelle hawkins
October 2, 2020
Earlier team at CAN w/Effie
September 27, 2020
Grace Odrick
September 27, 2020
I worked as Director of Personnel and Finance for Ethel "Effie" 'Smith at her organization for 7 years and just reading her bio brought back memories of all the hard work that our team did together from 2009 to 2016. ( At various meetings we would have to disclose that we were not related because we had the same last name.) Some of you may remember the disagreements that she and I would often have but she was a great leader. There may be disagreements with your leader but it does not take away from the excellent spirit of the work or the leader but sometimes necessary to spark the fire of the spirit. Well done my friend as your legacy will live on. Now I see, so glad that I had a chance to stand with you for those years to know your passion for Consumer Action Network (CAN) but most especially to know you.
Ms. Brenda
September 25, 2020
A ray of sunshine. Your smile and the words you’d shared was such a joy. I loved our conversations about God, wisdom, hot flashes, eating healthy and growing old. Yet her laughter was filled with the joy of a child. Rest in Heaven Dear Effie.
Terri Harrison
September 25, 2020
Effie was a lovely lady. I worked with her in many ways related to improving mental health services for consumers. She possessed a wonderful spirit of conviction to this effort and to improving the experience of consumers with mental health issues in accessing services and resources. Always working as part of a team of advocates, she contributed positively and thoughtfully. We were lucky to have her and I will miss her so much.
Michele May
September 25, 2020
Thank You, Effie for all the times that we share at work and personally. I miss you already. Since, I met you always inspire me to do better and not to give. You might be gone to the end of the rainbow, but always will stay in my mind and prayers. RIP Amen
Elizabeth Maldonado
September 25, 2020
Enjoy your peaceful journey and look out for our continue movement. Love always jopatterson, Parent Watch
Jenise jo Patterson
September 25, 2020
Effie was a Trailblazer, my boss, mentor, and friend. She will live on in my heart and the hearts of so many. RIP, Dear Effie.
Michelle Dyson
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