Hope, frustration mix as family awaits word on missing Brunswick man
Although prescription drugs control his symptoms well during the rest of the year — leaving him recently “on top of the world” and volunteering at a local soup kitchen — some time between November and January each year, “he gets into trouble,” Jason’s father, Doug Reil, said today.
Jason, 33, has disappeared before, for a day or two at a time, but he’s always called his dad or his sister to say he’s OK.
This time, though, it’s been 26 days since Jason, of Brunswick, showed up his father’s house on Lincoln Street and began speaking incoherently.
“He was talking about how the government was paying too much for medications and was causing our economy to crash,” Doug Reil said this morning. “He felt it was his responsibility to do something … I said, ‘Jay, when was the last time you had any sleep?’ He said, ‘I’ve been up for two days.’”
Jason slept on his dad’s couch that night, but woke up “delusional” early the next morning.
Doug tried to get his son to promise that he’d take his medication and to call Sweetser to connect with his psychiatrist.
“He said, ‘I can’t do that,’” Doug said. “I said, ‘Well, call me if you plan on doing anything.’”
Jason has attempted suicide in the past, so Doug urged him to call someone — anyone — if he had “those thoughts.”
“He said, ‘Dad, I’ve got to go for a walk,’" Doug said. That was on Jan. 12.
Brunswick police have searched since Jan. 25 — when Jason’s sister, Angela Reil, first reported him missing — for any sign of the man, but have so far been unsuccessful in locating him.
Detective Rich Cutliffe, who is leading the investigation, said Monday that Jason was identified in a security videotape picking up medication on Jan. 19 at Rite-Aid on Maine Street.
Bank records show that Jason withdrew a small amount of cash from his account the following day, according to Cutliffe, but his disability checks for the last two weeks have not been cashed.
Brunswick Police Capt. Mark Waltz said the Maine Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that Jason’s ATM card to access his food stamp benefits has not been used since late January.
Cutliffe has read Jason’s journals and searched his laptop, which his sister retrieved from his apartment on Federal Street, but the detective has yet to find any clues.
On Monday, he and Doug checked Jason’s apartment again, but Doug said, “There was no sign he’d been back. He hasn’t even picked up any of his mail, so I had it stopped so he can get it when he gets back and he won’t lose anything important.”
‘He just seems to lose it’
Doug Reil can’t remember exactly how old Jason was when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia — it’s typically identified in the late teens or early 20s — but he recalls that Jason was on a trip to Boston with his sister and her boyfriend — at Christmastime.
“He jumped out of a van on the highway just outside of Boston,” Doug said. “He said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ He was lucky — it was only some road rash.” At a Boston hospital, Jason was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Since then Jason has been treated through Sweetser, and when he takes his medication,
“He’s like on top of the world,” Doug said. “He seems to be motivated, he has ambitions and goals he sets up for himself to accomplish.”
In fact, Jason has been volunteering at Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, unloading trucks, Doug said. And Jason frequently checks on Doug, who is disabled, to make sure his garbage has been taken out and his dishes are washed.
“It’s unbelievable,” Doug said. “I have a hard time with a few things in my life and Jason (would) come and check on me, make sure my needs were being met.”
But when Jason stops taking his medication, Doug said, “The voices tell him things and he gets so confused, and he just seems to lose it. What frustrates me is he’ll go to his doctor and say, ‘I was wondering if I can maybe cut this in half.’ Then we go into an episode, and then the doctors put him back to the amount he was supposed to take.”
The side effects of the drugs “make him really shaky, and sometimes he’ll drool a little bit,” Doug said. “But he’s got to have his medication. He’s got to learn that, and until he does, we’re going to be running into these issues.”
But because Jason is an adult, taking medication is his choice, although Doug said that doesn’t seem right sometimes.
“It seems to me that if he’s not taking his medications, he’s hurting himself, and you’re not allowed to do that — it’s against the law to do that,” he said.
In fact, noncompliance with medication is very common across a number of different diagnoses, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to Tom Kivler, director of the behavioral health at Mid Coast Hospital.
“There can be a lot of reasons,” said Kivler, a licensed clinical professional counselor. “Certainly one is that it’s working, so you feel better and think, ‘I don’t need this anymore.’ ... Other reasons include symptoms that are not in check, and the person is becoming more paranoid, or side effects — there are a lot of different ones, and none are very pleasant.”
“Another piece is, we’re talking about people with significant chronic mental illness, and with that comes a lot of disorganization,” Kivler said. Such disorganization may make it more difficult to remember whether they’ve taken their medication.
As the days have ticked by with no word from Jason, frustration — largely directed at the police and the media — has become evident on Facebook, where family members have begun the page titled “Missing: Jason D. Reil.”
But Brunswick police said Monday that they’re doing all they can to find Jason.
Capt. Mark Waltz said police have a limited amount of resources but have assigned “one of our most valued investigators” to the case.
“I’ve been in constant contact with the family,” Cutliffe said, noting that he fielded phone calls all weekend about the case.
This morning, Deputy Chief Marc Hagan was scheduled to meet with a representative of the Maine Game Warden Service to discuss whether a search of the field behind Jason’s Federal Street apartment would be useful.
Rockland police have followed up on a tip received by Brunswick police that indicated Reil might be in that town, where he lived several years ago.
Other leads have come from Portland, which is where Doug Reil believes his son is.
One man reported on Jan. 28 that he’d seen someone matching Reil’s description “yelling aimlessly” on Congress Street in Portland, Cutliffe said. Another man called Friday to say he’d seen someone who looked like Reil at the Portland Public Library, Starbucks and at the Preble Street Resource Center, which operates a homeless shelter, Cutliffe said.
Doug Reil said he asked Jason’s mother, who lives in Westbrook, to check those locations, and at Lincoln Park, where Occupy Portland protesters have been camped.
Doug said Jason lived in Portland during his early 20s, when “he got into some trouble and went to rehab. He knows where the soup kitchens and shelters are there.”
But no one really knows, he acknowledged.
A clerk at the Brunswick 7-Elevin called Doug on Monday to say a Greyhound bus driver remembers seeing Jason last week, and talked to him about the cost of a bus ticket to California. And a family member posted on Facebook that Jason has mentioned hitchhiking south in the past.
Still, Doug said today that although Jason has been gone for a day or two before, he’s always let his family know he was OK.
“If he’s decided to take off for awhile to gather his thoughts, he’s never gone without calling someone,” Doug said. “That’s what’s so strange. He hasn’t called anyone — his mother, me his sister. That’s not like him.”
Facebook has also provided family members a way to communicate with each other — and to express their anxiety and concern.
“It is so hard to wake up every morning and still hear nothing new about Jason’s whereabouts,” Doug Reil wrote Sunday morning.
On Monday, he wrote to Jason, “I want to let you know that I am not mad at you. And if you don’t want to be found, that is your choice.” But he urged Jason to call, adding, “I just need to know you are safe.”
Cutliffe said Jason was last seen wearing a fleece pullover, dark green on the top with lighter green sleeves; dark jeans; and boots or shoes.
He is six feet tall, weighs approximately 165 pounds and has little to no hair. He may be wearing a tan hat with a brim.
Waltz said anyone who sees Reil can call Cutliffe at 725-6620.
Police have no reason to believe Reil is dangerous, Waltz said, but added, “We don’t know what frame of mind he’s in.”