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Mental Health In Maine: ‘The Success Story Of My Friend Chuck’

Photo by Andy Capwell

Mental illness comes in many forms, from depression to psychosis,and unfortunately many people who need treatment do not get it. This is a true story of a friend of mine, Chuck Petrucelly.

Chuck is one of 90 mentally ill people in Maine that are a NCR patient, not criminally responsible, because they were deemed to be insane at the time of the crime.

In 2008, Chuck killed his brother. He was sent to Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta, after the Maine attorney general’s criminal division accepted his insanity plea.

Former Augusta Mayor Bill Stokes, headed the Maine attorney general’s criminal division during Chuck’s case and Mr. Stokes sees the progress of Chuck’s mental health.

Stokes sees Chuck often at his job at a cafe near the state Capitol and what he sees is a life that’s been saved.

Petrucelly was at Riverview for a little over 4 years and moved out of the hospital more than a year ago, he now lives alone in a supervised apartment in Augusta.

Chuck credits the forgiveness of his mother and six other siblings as the biggest aid in his recovery. Chuck tries not to dwell on the past.

His brother was a year older and the two were inseparable growing up. Chuck, when talking of his brother Mike, told CNN.com that ‘there’s a connection I had with him that I just don’t have with anybody else, and nothing can replace it.’

Chuck’s mother Rosanne told CNN.com that ‘Losing Mike was devastating and still is. Part of me is broken. But Chuck is here and he still needs us. So our focus is on him.’

The NCR program in Maine, since 1985, has not seen a patient commit a violent felony upon returning to the community.

A patient in Maine’s NCR program can petition the court to move into a group home after years of therapy, then to a supervised apartment (where Chuck is now). Eventually, they can petition for full release.

Chuck has begun a new life. He is working at the cafe and has hopes to become a fitness instructor.The gym has become a great outlet for Chuck, he has transformed his body into 220-pounds of muscle, and his dedication to his fitness psychically is matched by his dedication of becoming mentally healthy.

Chuck says he is determined to make his late brother proud of his recovery. He told CNN.com ‘part of the reason I don’t give up on myself, is I know that my brother wouldn’t want that.’

I have known Chuck for three years. I met Chuck at the gym and knew nothing of his past. For about six months, I’d see Chuck at the gym and say hello. Then in July of 2011, I was getting ready for vacation and mentioned to Chuck at the gym that I was going on vacation and if he’d like to maybe come over for a BBQ at my house.

That’s when Chuck told me that he was a resident at Riverview. I decided to still be friends with Chuck and not to be afraid of him and his past. I thought, he’s being treated, his family supports him, so I am not going to judge him on his past.

Fast forward three years and Chuck and I are still good friends. I lift with Chuck (not nearly as much weight as him!) often, Chuck and I have barbecued at my house many times, Chuck gets the lawn mower out of the shed for me (so I don’t have to deal with the snakes!) We go to Walmart and Hannaford and just hangout every now and then.

I didn’t know Chuck when he was going through the height of his mental illness, but the Chuck I know is a hard-worker, grounded, funny guy. I am proud to call Chuck my friend.

Augusta Residents Concerns Of Riverview

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