A Family Speaks Out: Virginia’s Jail Patchwork: Some Offer Help, Most Don’t


A FRIDAY STORY: Here’s another frustrating and tragic  story about a young man who ended up entangled in the criminal justice system because of a mental illness. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has been keeping a spotlight on our state’s  fractured mental health care system. That’s important since Richmond is the state capital. Sadly, this story could have been published in nearly any state.  When I contacted the family after reading this story to learn if I could share it on my blog, I got this email reply.

Mr. Earley,

One thing we have found when dealing with a family member who has mental illness is that it is one of the loneliest places a family can be.  No one seems to understand that this is a real illness with devastating effects. Before his illness manifested itself, our son was on top of the world — he was what every parent wanted for their son.  The Captain and Quarterback of his high school football team and one of the best

lacrosse goalies in Virginia. A recruited athlete out of high school, an appointment to West Point. Then — everything seemed to tumble down to where Andrew is now. At first, especially for me, this was all very hard to accept.  However,  once my wife, Connie,  and I accepted the fact that Andrew was suffering from a mental illness,  the road became a little clearer.  One thing is certain….We will never give up on our son and we believe, that through all this turmoil, there was a purpose for this… We never wanted this path for him, but you have to play the hand you are dealt. We hope that with our support and encouragement, Andrew will learn how to live with this illness and not let it defeat him, but use his experiences to grow stronger and healthier.   Andrew, a singer/songwriter and poet, feels the power in words and expresses what he is going through in his lyrics and poetry.  A song Andrew wrote called “Believe it or not” reveals his mindset in fighting this illness:  “Smile when I’d rather frown, cause life’s a sweet while till forever’s found”.

Sincerely,  Ray & Connie Maternick

Ray and Connie,  you are not alone. Thank you and your son for having the courage to speak out.

Ordeal highlights problems with jails, mental health system
BY MICHAEL MARTZ Richmond Times-Dispatch 

ORANGE — Andrew Neil Maternick has spent most of the past 7½ months in a cell, 23 hours a day, in the Central Virginia Regional Jail. He had stabbed his younger brother, Kyle, in the arm with a kitchen knife one Sunday night in July because he thought the brother was an imposter wearing a metal suit and would not bleed.

When a Louisa County sheriff’s deputy arrived at the family’s home in Gordonsville and tried to handcuff him, Maternick pulled away and allegedly tried to hit him, resulting in charges of resisting arrest and assaulting an officer, in addition to a felony charge of malicious wounding.

Maternick, 25, has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder bipolar type, but his only treatment, other than a brief detention at a hospital in Petersburg and a 3½-week stay at Western State Hospital last fall, has been the medication the jail and his mother provide, and an occasional talk with a psychologist who visits the jail weekly.

“I definitely need treatment soon,” he said during an interview at the jail early this month. “Just being around other people. I’m in a cell 23 hours a day. That can play havoc with anybody’s mental health, let alone someone who’s schizoaffective.”

Maternick finally will get the help he desperately needs. A Louisa judge on Wednesday found him not guilty by reason of insanity, committing him to the custody of the state commissioner for behavioral health and developmental services and likely a long stay in one of Virginia’s mental institutions. He will remain in jail until the court order is filed and processed.

His journey through the criminal justice system is not unusual in Virginia, where as many as 6,000 people with mental illness — half of them seriously mentally ill — are housed in local and regional jails with little or no treatment, depending on where they commit the offense that brought them there.

“It seems to me that the criminal justice system at this point is pretty dysfunctional where it comes to dealing with mental health issues,” said J. Tyler Grisham, a Charlottesville lawyer who represents Maternick.

Louisa Chief Judge Timothy K. Sanner found Maternick not guilty by reason of insanity after reviewing two evaluations — including one commissioned by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in January — that attributed his actions to a “manic episode and psychosis” that made it impossible for him to understand what he was doing. The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office already had agreed to the insanity plea.

Previously, the court and prosecutors had opposed Maternick’s release on bond unless a secure facility could be found for him, according to Grisham and Maternick’s parents, Ray and Connie.

“The judge and prosecutors treat him as too dangerous to be out pending trial, so Andrew remains in jail with no therapy,” the Maternicks said in a message last month to the Governor’s Task Force on Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response.

In a report issued last month, the Office of the State Inspector General called Virginia jails “one of the commonwealth’s largest providers of mental health services for persons with mental illness.”

However, the report said jails “lack the capacity to satisfy the current demand for mental health services” and often don’t have a close working relationship with the local and regional community services boards that coordinate treatment.

Maternick is a good example of the fragmentation of care. He lives in Louisa, which is served by Region 10, the Community Services Board in Charlottesville, but the regional jail is served by the Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services Board, based in Culpeper.

“The CSB that dealt with him is not the CSB that provides services to the jail,” said F. Glenn Aylor, the superintendent of the Central Virginia Regional Jail, which includes Louisa as a member jurisdiction.

“The services should follow the individual,” said Aylor, a past president of the Virginia Association of Regional Jails.

The CSB that serves the jail here generally provides only emergency evaluations of inmates in psychiatric crisis, he said. It bills the jail for any follow-up. It’s sometimes tough to commit someone who’s already in a secure setting to a state hospital for care.

“It shouldn’t take an act of Congress to get somebody committed to a mental hospital for treatment,” Aylor said, “and not put all the load on the jail and not put the individual through that.”

If Maternick had committed his offense in Charlottesville, Albemarle County or Nelson County, he would have been incarcerated at the regional jail in Charlottesville, which screens inmates for mental health issues and provides them some treatment.

Region 10 also has a significant presence at the Albemarle/Charlottesville Regional Jail, where it provides 20 hours of treatment a week for inmates with substance abuse issues.

“We do not go (to Orange) and provide services in that jail,” said Jerry Wistein, the director of community-based services at Region 10.

The Albemarle/Charlottesville Regional Jail and Region 10 agreed last week to share the cost of staff for an additional 20 hours to provide mental health transition services for inmates who are about to be released — another major concern the inspector general cited in its jail study.

“Region 10 will supervise the transition from our care to community care to make sure they don’t slip through the cracks,” said Lt. Col. Martin Kumer, the interim jail superintendent.

One in four inmates at the jail are taking medication for mental health issues, but there are no dedicated funds to pay for mental health services, Kumer said. “The money I spend on mental health comes out of my security budget.”

For many jails, he said, “It comes down to what services are available and to what degree.”

Brian Duncan, the executive director of the Rappahannock Rapidan CSB, confirmed in a message that the agency has limited services to regional jails. “It’s obviously a place of significant need in our service delivery system,” he said.

For Maternick, who was manacled at the wrists and ankles for his interview with a reporter, the prospect of returning to a state mental hospital’s treatment is a long-awaited relief.

“There’s a lot more social interaction there, and they care about your mental health and your medical health a lot more,” he said. “You don’t get depressed as much.”

But the plea of not guilty by reason of insanity also carries a risk.

“You have to understand there’s a risk you’ll get hung up in the hospital for a period of years,” said Grisham, his attorney.

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone

Now all you have is this bloody song

Consider me gone

I’m headed, I’m headed to Mars

— Andrew Neil Maternick

A dark future awaited Maternick around a curve on the Fairfax County Parkway on April 29, 2009.

As he rounded the curve, he ran full-speed into a car parked improperly in the left lane with a plastic, 5-gallon bucket beneath it. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt. His head hit the windshield. A CT scan showed a “soft tissue injury to the left frontal temporal region” of his brain.

In that moment, Maternick’s life changed. He had been a talented athlete recruited to play Division I lacrosse at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He had withdrawn from the academy, where he had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and anxiety, but was planning to join the Marine Corps.

“My life drastically changed with this close call with death,” he wrote in a biography on a website featuring his songs and poetry. “I had some complications after the accident, which also landed me in some dark places and changed my plans to join the military.”

The complications appeared May 12, 2009, less than two weeks after the accident. He had watched the Washington Capitals beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the National Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinals, and then visited a neighbor in his family’s Fairfax Station neighborhood.

Andrew had come home, told his parents good night and that he loved them. They were awakened about 2 a.m. by what his father called “a ruckus in the hallway and pounding on the door.”

Andrew was crying for help, holding his head, saying he couldn’t see. “He said, ‘Help me, pray for me!’ ” Ray Maternick recalled. “He said, ‘How do I know you’re my dad? How do I know you’re my mother?’ ”

Andrew ran outside onto the lawn. His parents called 911, as he asked them to do. When the police arrived, he later described them as “strange dark shapes and … weird-looking dark things coming at me.”

“I felt like I was drowning in fear,” he said, according to a report by Staunton psychologist Thomas V. Ryan. The psychologist examined him in early 2012 for a lawsuit filed against Andrew by a paramedic whom he struck in the ensuing altercation.

Police used a stun gun three times on Andrew, who at 6 feet, 3 inches weighed 210 pounds, and tackled him, his father said. Charges of assault and battery eventually were dropped, and the civil suit was settled with the paramedic.

Ryan concluded that Andrew “experienced a severe, acute psychotic episode resulting in a complete break with reality and thereby rendering him incapable of understanding or appreciating the nature, cause or consequence of his actions.”

It was just the beginning of a journey that his parents did not yet comprehend.

They sent him to a psychiatrist and enrolled him in Liberty University in Lynchburg, where the next episode occurred in fall 2009.

Police arrested him and took him to Lynchburg General Hospital under an emergency custody order. He had run from his dorm room after curfew and was behaving strangely. Charges of trespassing and disturbing the peace eventually were dropped.

After he was evaluated at Virginia Baptist Hospital the next week, the incident was diagnosed as “manic episode, with some depressive features, bipolar disorder 1,” according to medical records Ryan cited in his report

“I said, ‘My son’s not bipolar,’ ” said Ray Maternick, a retired Air Force combat veteran and currently a civilian employee of the Department of Defense who has been deployed twice to Iraq and three times to Afghanistan.

One of Ray’s deployments to Afghanistan came at the end of 2009. Andrew was back home in Fairfax, living reclusively in the basement and writing songs. “All of a sudden, music has become his job,” his father said.

While his father was in Afghanistan, Andrew walked off during a blizzard and was missing for a week. He was listed as an “endangered adult.” Police found him sleeping in the dugout of a baseball field in Prince William County.

“It’s finally sinking in to me that we have a mental illness problem,” Ray said.

Still, Ray admitted to his frustration with Andrew, who began teaching himself guitar early the next year, writing songs, and painting.

“I got so upset I ripped up some of his paintings,” his father recalled. “I was trying to get him to realize he can’t live life this way. … I was trying to change him.”

But Ray has undergone a change of his own in his attitude toward mental illness. Now, he promotes Andrew’s music on online sites and manages a Facebook page called “Stop the Criminalization of those with Mental Illness,” which features his son’s art.

In his website bio, Andrew said he had written more than 160 songs since the beginning of 2010. “My goal was to make one song a month … so I guess I exceeded this goal.”

In 2011, the family moved from Fairfax to Louisa near Gordonsville. Andrew enrolled at the local community college but later dropped out. Early last year, Ray deployed to Afghanistan again, leaving Connie at home with Andrew and Kyle. (Their other two children were grown and not living at home.)

Connie was dealing with a mounting aggressiveness in Andrew, “building up, building up.” She had him taken to the University of Virginia Medical Center emergency room in June and then placed in a psychiatric bed in a Harrisonburg hospital.

After he was discharged, Connie experienced the first of repeated struggles in getting medication for her son in transition from institutional care. She made an appointment with a psychiatrist and neuropsychologist in mid-July. She also struggled to get him to take his medication.

On Sunday evening, July 7, Andrew erupted. He punched holes in the wall of his room and bathroom. He began yelling, waking up Kyle, who had been napping upstairs. Andrew rushed outside, after first picking up a ceramic knife from the kitchen cutting board.

“He’s just like a whirlwind,” said his mother, who was frantically trying to turn on her charging cellphone to call 911.

And that’s when Andrew stabbed his brother in the right forearm with the knife.

“I stabbed my little brother,” he later told Western State. “I thought he was an imposter.”

Andrew was admitted to Western State for an evaluation Aug. 30. According to the hospital record, he said, “This might be a blessing in disguise.”

The telephone doesn’t work in the jail interview room, so Andrew leaned near the Plexiglas barrier and clearly recited a poem he had written:

“The Lord provides without fail

the stars are guides to help us sail

away from scars that scream and shout

away from bars jagged with doubt

and to a land where beauty rains

washing away all painful things.

The stars, he explained, “are my family.”

“In my case, I’m blessed in the fact I have family that hasn’t given up on me and hasn’t thrown me away,” he said. “Not everyone in my situation can say that.”

Andrew stays strong in jail by writing poems and children’s stories. He draws, reads and does word searches. He exercises when he can with wall pushups, walking stairs and abdominal crunches.

“In these final weeks, I just can’t rush myself out of here,” he said. “Keep it consistent. Keep my routine. Not get ahead of myself.”

He recited another poem:

I sometimes get ahead of myself and forget

the wonderful wealth of the story

‘The Tortoise and the Hare.’

 ’Tis true glory to patiently get there.

Andrew paused, and explained, “I’m patiently getting to the help I need.”

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.