Washington County man moved from jail to mental health facility

Suspect's mother hopes evaluation brings him home

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After four months in jail, a Washington County man with mental illness and autism is being treated at Torrance State Hospital, a step his mother hopes eventually will lead to a smooth homecoming.

Drake Munger, 19, was placed in Washington County Jail in August after taking a sharpened stick to a preliminary hearing on unlawful restraint and stolen-property charges that his mother, Caroline Drury of Donora, called the result of a misunderstanding.

Ms. Drury had asked to have her son's charges transferred to the county's mental-health court and expressed concern for his safety in jail, saying it was not the proper setting for a person with complex psychiatric needs. He remained in jail because Ms. Munger could not afford the $100,000 straight cash bond imposed by a district judge.

Mr. Munger's story, the subject of an Oct. 27 story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, reflects local and national struggles to manage a growing number of prisoners with mental-health problems.

Washington County Common Pleas Judge Katherine B. Emery on Oct. 31 signed an order transferring Mr. Munger to Torrance, a Westmoreland County facility for the mentally ill, for 90 days of evaluation and treatment. Ms. Munger said it took officials until last week to get her son to the hospital.

"My hope is to get him stabilized there," Ms. Munger said. She previously said she has had a difficult time navigating the health care system to find the right treatment for her son, who has an intellectual disability, autism, schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.

After leaving Torrance, he will return to Washington County to face the charges filed against him, though Ms. Munger said the results of his evaluation at Torrance should help county officials decide how to handle his case. Ms. Drury said she's eager to have the case "done and over with" so her son can return home -- in better health than before.

In July, Mr. Munger called 911 to say that he was detaining a youth for breaking into cars at a Monongahela park. However, police charged Mr. Munger with unlawfully restraining the youth. They also charged him with receiving stolen property for driving a stolen bicycle to the park, then added a weapons charge when he showed up at his preliminary hearing with the stick, which his mother said was one of her garden stakes.

The unlawful restraint charges eventually were dropped.

Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.

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