a terrible tragedy in Jon McNamara's family

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a terrible tragedy in Jon McNamara's family

Post by georgesperosjr » Tue Mar 22, 2005 4:13 am

Jon McNamara is a member of the Lehigh Valley Linux Users Group.

His wife Patty, Grace Food Bank coordinator at Grace Episcopal Church, lost her parents, who were also volunteers at the food bank, and her brother.

Please support the Scanlan and McNamara families through this difficult time of sorrow and grief.

I will post information about the funeral or memorial service at a later date.

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From The Morning Call

Son kills parents in Allentown apartment

March 21, 2005

A 45-year-old man who lived with his parents stabbed them to death inside their south Allentown apartment Saturday morning before taking his own life. According to the Allentown Police and Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin, Roger J. Scanlan, 71, and Mary Frances Scanlan, 70, of 712 S. Jefferson St. were stabbed to death in their apartment. The murders occurred sometime before 10 a.m. Saturday, according to Lehigh County coroner Scott Grim, who ruled both deaths as homicides. Roger F. Scanlan, 45, of the same address, committed suicide before 10 a.m. . He was found in the same apartment. Grim said an autopsy on the son was performed Monday. He did not identify the cause of death. Police responded to the Scanlon's apartment Sunday night, about 9 p.m.. No other details were available as of late Monday afternoon.

Read more in Tuesday's Morning Call.

Copyright © 2005, The Morning Call

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From The Morning Call

Allentown man kills parents, self

Couple dedicated to helping others found slain Sunday

By Romy Varghese and Angela Pomponio Of The Morning Call

March 22, 2005

A couple who devoted their time to their church and a food bank were stabbed to death in their Allentown apartment Saturday by their son, who then killed himself, authorities said Monday. Roger J. Scanlan, 71, his wife, Mary Frances Scanlan, 70, and their son, 45-year-old Roger F. Scanlan, were found dead by city police around 9 p.m. Sunday in their apartment in the 700 block of S. Jefferson Street. Another son had called police to check on his parents after he saw no lights at the apartment Sunday night and called without a response, Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin said. The couple had been expected at a family function Sunday afternoon, said Ronald S. Manescu, Allentown assistant police chief. According to the county coroner's office, the double murder and suicide occurred before 10 a.m. Saturday. Authorities did not say how the younger Roger Scanlan killed himself. Manescu said it's the coroner's policy not to release that information in a suicide.

More than a dozen cars lined the street Monday afternoon at son Michael Scanlan's North Whitehall Township home as family and friends gathered to grieve. Michael Scanlan said family members were too distraught to talk about the tragedy. ''We have no comment,'' he said. ''My father and mother were heroes, that's what they were. They gave their lives for their son.'' Martin and Manescu declined to speculate on Roger F. Scanlan's motive. Martin noted that anyone who kills his parents and then kills himself ''probably had some mental issues, wouldn't you say?'' Elizabeth Carson, a neighbor of the Scanlans, said she didn't hear or see anything out of the ordinary Sunday until police arrived in unmarked cars after 9 p.m. and hung crime scene tape outside. ''Oh my goodness,'' Carson gasped when she heard the news, grabbing an Easter card she had addressed to the couple and planned to mail Monday. ''That's such a shame. They were good neighbors.''

Carson described Roger and Mary Scanlan as a ''very nice Irish couple'' who were content in their retirement. Mary Scanlan enjoyed trips to Atlantic City, while her husband preferred to stay home and play poker on the family's computer, she said. They both seemed to struggle, though, when it came to dealing with their son, Roger, whom she described as mentally ill. The younger Roger Scanlan, Carson said, appeared delusional, had trouble keeping a job and acted out at home occasionally. ''I had a feeling something was going to happen,'' Carson said, clutching the Easter card in her lap. ''There were times Mary and Roger had to call the police because he was off.'' Manescu said police had been called to the address for minor incidents involving the Scanlans eight times from 2001 to 2002. Police hadn't been called to their residence since October 2002, he said. The younger Scanlan had lived in the same apartment complex but only moved to his parents' unit several months ago, Manescu said.

Scanlan had some ''minor'' arrests for offenses such as public drunkenness, he said. According to Lehigh County Court records, in 1989 the elder Roger Scanlan took out a protection-from-abuse order against his son. It expired after a year. In 1999, the Scanlans' son, Roger, stayed at some point at the Allentown Rescue Mission, records state. The elder Roger Scanlan and his wife were active in church and community activities, church officials said. They had been parishioners at Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena since 1959, said the Rev. David L. James, assistant pastor. They attended Mass every Sunday and sometimes during the week, he said. The elder Roger Scanlan was a member of the men's service group, a lector, a eucharistic minister and an usher. His wife belonged to the women's service group and senior citizens club. Both were involved in fund-raising and in a prayer group for spiritual renewal, James said. ''They were very, very nice people,'' he said, describing them as devout Catholics.

''They will be greatly missed.'' James said their son occasionally came to services but he was unaware of problems. Dick Sniscak of Allentown, who coached Michael Scanlan in the 1980s and brother John Scanlan in the 1990s when each played football at Allen High School, recalled the parents as being committed to their children. ''The father especially was very involved, I think, in the booster club at that particular time,'' Sniscak said. In addition, the couple volunteered at the food bank at Grace Episcopal Church, where their daughter, Patricia McNamara, worked as its director. In an e-mail sent Monday to parishioners that informed them of the killings and suicide, the Rev. Patrick Malloy said, ''When I write to you about a death in our community, I usually end with a passage from the Prayer Book. In this case, I cannot imagine what to write beyond the sad, sad facts.'' A pot of white tulips sat outside the couple's apartment door Monday, with a small cross made of palm and the message ''Rest in Peace.''



Reporters Dan Hartzell, Michael Duck and Frank Whelan contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2005, The Morning Call

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Man kills parents, himself

Authorities find bodies in Allentown after family members grow concerned.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Express-Times

ALLENTOWN -- A 45-year-old city man killed himself Saturday morning after stabbing his elderly parents to death in the family's South Jefferson Street apartment, police said. Roger F. Scanlan attacked Roger J. and Mary Frances Scanlan with a knife sometime before 10 a.m. -- killing his 71-year-old father before moving on to his 70-year-old mother, police said. Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim ruled that both deaths were homicide caused by stab wounds to the body. Roger F. Scanlan took his own life shortly after murdering his parents, police said. Authorities didn't find the bodies until Sunday night. "We know that Mr. (Roger F.) Scanlan performed this act," Assistant Police Chief Ronald S. Manescu said Monday. "There's no other suspects." Grim performed an autopsy on Roger F. Scanlan on Monday but did not specify the cause of his death because the manner of death was ruled a suicide. Grim typically withholds the cause of death in suicide cases, police said.

Police, along with the Lehigh County district attorney's and coroner's offices, investigated the deaths. City police responded to the Scanlans' home in the 700 block of South Jefferson Street about 9 p.m. Sunday to check on the family after a relative reported they had failed to show up for a get-together Saturday, Manescu said. Officers found all three bodies in the apartment dining room, Manescu said. There were signs of a struggle in the room, he said. No one else lived in the apartment, Manescu said. Lehigh County Deputy Coroner Raymond Anthony pronounced the Scanlans dead at the scene about an hour and a half after officers found their bodies, Grim said. Police also found the murder weapon in the apartment, but Manescu would not say what kind of knife it was. Manescu said Roger J. and Mary Frances Scanlan's other son last spoke with them Saturday morning. When he was unable to make contact with them or his brother Sunday, he called police.

Manescu said he is researching whether there had been any recent police activity at the Scanlans' address. He declined to comment on whether Roger F. Scanlan had a history of violence or mental health problems. "I can't comment on that. It wouldn't be appropriate. I'm not a mental health professional," he said.

Reporter Precious Petty can be reached at 610-867-5000 or by e-mail at ppetty@express-times.com.

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Post by Patrick » Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:55 am

What a horrible tragedy. Our hearts and best wishes go out to Jon and his wife.

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Family couldn't get information to help brother, they say

Post by georgesperosjr » Wed Mar 23, 2005 3:38 am

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Brother blames murder-suicide on faulty system
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
The Express-Times

In spite of what happened at his parents' Allentown apartment Saturday morning, Michael Scanlan insists his brother was not a monster. Instead, Roger F. Scanlan was the victim of a flawed health care system with an inadequate safety net for people who suffer from mental illness, Michael Scanlan said Tuesday. "My brother was sick. He wasn't a deranged murderer. He wasn't a criminal," he said. "He was a victim I think, too, in all of this lackadaisical doctoring." Roger F. Scanlan had been struggling with mental illness for 26 years -- most of his life -- when he stabbed his elderly parents, Roger J. and Mary Frances Scanlan, to death before killing himself sometime before 10 a.m. Saturday, said Michael Scanlan, who is one of seven Scanlan siblings. The Scanlans' bodies were discovered Sunday night in the dining room of the South Jefferson Street apartment where Roger F. Scanlan had been staying with his parents for about six months, police said.

Authorities confirmed Monday that 71-year-old Roger J. Scanlan, and 70-year-old Mary Frances Scanlan died from stab wounds and that their deaths were homicides. Roger F. Scanlan's death was a suicide, authorities said. Michael Scanlan said his brother had been in and out of state and veterans hospitals since he left the Navy in the early 1980s, but never received sufficient treatment for his illness. Oftentimes, he was released from clinics after signing himself out, even though it was obvious that he wasn't well, Michael Scanlan said. Roger F. Scanlan, 45, recently had been living in an apartment of his own, but was forced out by management after he had an "episode." He moved in with his parents. Michael Scanlan said his parents felt that giving their son a home with them was their only option, since neither he nor they could afford for him to go to a private mental health facility. "The care he needed was not provided by the VA or the state," he said.

"He came and stayed with my parents because my parents didn't want him to be on the street." Michael Scanlan said his parents and other family members tried to make sure his brother received proper care and took his medication regularly, but noted that the laws and policies governing the health care system make such involvement very difficult. "Families can't get help for the mentally ill in this state, and it's so wrong. We were all just totally exhausted trying to get help," he said. Michael Scanlan said his brother was a good, gentle person and that there was no warning he was homicidal or suicidal. "He wasn't a violent person," he said. Allentown Assistant Police Chief Ronald S. Manescu said police had been called to the South Jefferson Street apartment eight times between 2001 and 2002 for incidents involving Roger F. Scanlan. The last incident was in October 2002, he said.

Manescu described all of the calls as "minor" disturbances or incidents in which police were called to assist Lehigh County's crisis intervention service. Roger F. Scanlan had also been arrested several times in the city for public drunkenness between about 1990 and the present, Manescu said. He described those incidents as minor, too. Michael Scanlan said the Scanlan family is devastated by the tragedy, but that he is thankful for the outpouring of support from the community. He estimated 300 people visited his North Whitehall Township home Monday to offer condolences. Roger J. and Mary Frances Scanlan were heavily involved in the community and their church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Sienna. They attended St. Catherine faithfully every week, and volunteered at the Grace Episcopal Church food bank, where one of their daughters worked as director, Michael Scanlan said. "They were the best and they did so much for the community," he said.

Jennifer Mulholland, a family friend who works with Michael Scanlan and another brother, John Scanlan, described the parents as "the nicest people you'd ever want to meet." "They were really clean-cut, hard-working, blue-collar people," she said Tuesday. Michael Scanlan said he is hopeful his brother and his parents' deaths will lead to change in the way patients suffering from mental illnesses are treated in both state and veterans hospitals. "This is a bomb that went off because the system didn't work," he said. "People want to know, 'How can this happen?' "

Reporter Precious Petty can be reached at 610-867-5000 or by e-mail at ppetty@express-times.com.

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From The Morning Call

Stabbing victims' children blast system

Family couldn't get information to help brother, they say.

By Angela Pomponio
Of The Morning Call

March 23, 2005

Roger F. Scanlan's brothers aren't angry at him for fatally stabbing their parents and then killing himself but are frustrated with a mental health system they say prevented the family from getting him long-term help. It was a vicious cycle for more than 20 years, according to family members: Roger, who they believe had bipolar disorder, would get stabilized on medications for 30 days at a hospital, sign himself out and return to a relative's home or his parents' Allen Gardens apartment on Jefferson Street in Allentown. Inevitably, he would stop taking his medications, his siblings said, and become delusional. He would go ''off kilter,'' said Michael Scanlan, and talk nonsense, prompting his parents to call Lehigh County's Crisis Intervention hotline, an arm of the Mental Health/Mental Retardation unit.

This past weekend, though, there weren't any signals that his 45-year-old brother was about to snap, Michael Scanlan said Tuesday as he and five other siblings planned funeral services for their brother and parents. Roger J. Scanlan, 71, and his wife, Mary Frances Scanlan, 70, were found dead of stab wounds in their apartment's dining room Sunday when police checked on their well-being. Their son committed suicide nearby, but police would not say how. Among the family members' questions: Why couldn't they get information about their brother's medical history and medications? Why were concerns about the younger Roger Scanlan brushed off by so many mental health agencies and professionals? Why, Michael Scanlan also asked, were his parents ''almost forced'' to be their son's mental health caretakers? ''If you did a case study of my brother, I would ask, is this good treatment? Because my parents are dead … .'' Michael Scanlan said.

He said he alerted health professionals and the county's crisis intervention unit several times of his brother's deteriorating mental health. ''[Roger] didn't want to be sick. He didn't want to be delusional. Most of the time he didn't know what he was doing.'' Allentown Assistant Police Chief Ronald Manescu said police had been called to the Scanlans' apartment eight times in the nearly 20 years that the couple lived there, the last time in 2002. Two of the eight times, Manescu said, police officers were there to provide assistance to the county's crisis intervention unit. Valerie Hildebeitel, county spokeswoman, said confidentiality laws prevent officials from confirming or denying that someone received help from the unit. ''He was suffering all of the time,'' Michael Scanlan said of his brother, whom he call Rog. ''[He] would have been helped more with one-on-one long-term care.'' Roger F. Scanlan's siblings did not have specific information about his hospital stays, but believe some were involuntary.

By state law, a person can be involuntarily admitted to a hospital if he is a danger to himself or others. Under an emergency application, a person may be involuntarily committed for no more than five days. A hearing must be held before someone can be hospitalized longer. Brian Scanlan of Allentown described his parents as ''ordinary people who did extraordinary things'' such as taking in homeless people when they had a home full of children; dedicating themselves to their church of 45 years, the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena; and volunteering their time to numerous causes, including the food bank at Grace Episcopal Church. The couple's daughter, Patricia McNamara, is the director of the church's foundation. ''They're such a tight family,'' said Jim Heidecker III of Allentown, a friend since kindergarten of the couple's youngest son, John. ''You never saw one without the other,'' he said of the parents.

''Mr. and Ms. Scanlan did not miss a Sunday at church,'' Heidecker said, adding that the elder Roger Scanlan was an usher and reader at St. Catharine's. ''He would always be volunteering his time somehow. … The church and the family was their life.'' Their children meant everything to them, brothers Michael, Brian and John agreed, reminiscing with laughter and tears. ''Every week, during my entire Navy career, I got a letter from Mom,'' Brian Scanlan said of his mother, who survived breast cancer in the early 1980s. ''She was fiercely protective of her children. If anyone said anything about her children, she was like a cat. The claws came out.'' So when Roger F. Scanlan was discharged from the Navy in the early 1980s for ''a complete nervous breakdown,'' his parents soon took him in. That began their uphill struggle to find mental health care for their oldest son, who also drank heavily and experimented with drugs in his 20s.

The siblings said the family tried to learn more about his treatment from doctors and veterans hospitals, but were prevented from doing so because of medical privacy laws. ''I'm appalled,'' said Brian Scanlan. ''I think my parents realized early on that no one was going to help my brother as well as they could. … This is the culmination of people passing Roger around. It was very 'pass the buck.''' But, another relative said, the parents wouldn't give up on him. ''They couldn't turn anybody out,'' said Roger J. Scanlan's brother, Bill Scanlan of Norristown. He said his brother didn't like to talk about his son's problems. Whenever he was asked about his son, he ''would always say something positive,'' that he was doing well or working. ''My brother was the only one who could take care of him,'' Bill Scanlan said. He said his nephew, when he was in his 20s, lived with him and his wife in Norristown for a couple of months.

He did ''strange things,'' such as getting up in the middle of the night and hammering holes in the walls. He hallucinated, drank heavily and got into fights, Bill Scanlan said. He said he thought his nephew ''strange, but I didn't think he was that dangerous.'' Bill Scanlan said his brother planned to attend a high school reunion dinner in Norristown Saturday night. When he didn't show up, another brother, John Scanlan, called the family. Michael Scanlan went to the apartment and saw his father's car was still there. He saw that the door to the apartment was unlocked and called the police. On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, a family acquaintance, called Michael Scanlan to offer condolences. Scanlan urged Dent to review mental health privacy laws and their impact on families. ''The laws need to change. I think the families of a Roger Scanlan should be able to intervene. The families need to have more say in what goes on with the treatment of family members,'' he said.

''I'm not bitter, and I don't want anyone's head. I want to know why we couldn't get anything done.''



Reporters Romy Varghese and Michael Duck contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2005, The Morning Call

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From The Morning Call

Scanlans are remembered for kindness

March 23, 2005

Isn't it a shame that the only time we find out about the tremendous goodness of people is when something bad happens to them? Such is the case with Roger and Mary Frances Scanlan, the people who were killed by son Roger in a horrific murder-suicide in Allentown over the weekend. The Scanlans were terrific folks. But their good deeds went largely unnoticed by most of the population, until now. The deaths had an impact on the Allentown sports community because many remember the Scanlan sons — Michael, Roger and John — as excellent athletes and also recall the generous support that the mother and father provided for their kids and the Allen High sports program. News of the tragedy deeply affected Nate Hobgood-Chittick, the former Allen High and University of North Carolina standout and NFL defensive tackle who won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams.

John Scanlan is such a good pal of Hobgood-Chittick's that he was at the Super Bowl when the Rams beat the Titans in 2000 at the Georgia Dome and attended Hobgood-Chittick's wedding in Florida last summer. ''The Scanlans were just phenomenal parents and people,'' Hobgood-Chittick said from his California home. ''They would do anything for anybody. They had seven kids and when those kids grew up, and they had more room in their house, they would open their door to homeless people. They loved to help those in need. They did so much good work for the community with charity work and starting food banks. They were the best.'' Rich Sniscak, the Parkland High principal, knew the family well. One of his youth football teammates with the LCYA Bulldogs was Roger Scanlan, who took his life after killing his parents. At Allen, he coached John Scanlan in football and he currently lives near Mike Scanlan. ''It's a terrible thing,'' Sniscak said. ''I was shocked when I heard the news. The Scanlans were very giving people.

I remember when I was a teacher at Allen, one of my assignments was to monitor the buses taking the students out to the vo-tech early every morning. I'd be out there standing by the Phys Ed Center and Mrs. Scanlan would pass me nearly every day on her way to church and we'd have a nice chat. ''I remember them being members of our Touchdown Club at Allen and they were very supportive. Those kids on those teams were very tight-knit. Guys like Jim Heidecker, Nate Hobgood-Chittick and John Scanlan remain the best of friends to this day.'' Now, as John Scanlan mourns the loss of his parents and a brother, he will need his friends more than ever.



Copyright © 2005, The Morning Call


Press Releases

Allentown Police Department Releases Information on Double Homicide/Suicide at 712 S. Jefferson Street
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE DATE: Monday, March 21, 2005

Contact: Assistant Chief Ronald S. Manescu, Allentown Police Department, Cell Phone: 484-239-4034, E-mail: manescu@allentowncity.org

ALLENTOWN - On Sunday, March 20, 2005, at approximately 9:02 p.m., the Allentown Police Department responded to 712 S. Jefferson Street, Apartment #2, to check the welfare of the residents of that apartment. Responding officers gained entry into the apartment and found 2 deceased males and 1 deceased female. The Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office and Lehigh County Coroner’s Office immediately assisted the APD with the investigation. All three persons were pronounced dead on the scene at approximately 10:30 p.m.

The deceased are:

Roger J. Scanlan, Age 71

Mary Scanlan, Age 70

Roger F. Scanlan, Age 45

The cause and manner of death for Roger J. and Mary Scanlan are stab wounds to the body - homicide. The manner of death for Roger F. Scanlan is suicide. As a result of investigation by Allentown Police and the Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin, it has been determined that Roger F. Scanlan is responsible for the stabbing deaths of his parents - Roger J. and Mary Scanlan.

© 2002 City of Allentown. All Rights Reserved.

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Funeral Service Announcements

Post by georgesperosjr » Wed Mar 23, 2005 11:53 pm

Picture of Roger and Mary Scanlan

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Guest Book for Mary Frances Scanlan

http://www.legacy.com/MCall/Guestbook.a ... ID=3328171

Mary Frances Scanlan obituary

http://www.legacy.com/CommonCobrand/Pri ... ID=3328171

Mary Frances Scanlan

Mary Frances Scanlan, 70, of Allentown, died March 20, 2005, in her home. She was the wife of the late Roger J. Scanlan. They were married for 47 years on Nov. 16. Born in Bridgeport, she was a daughter of the late John and Elizabeth (Murray) Dunlevy. She had been employed by the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. in Allentown in the day care department for many years, in the admitting department of the former Allentown Hospital for a few years and by Service Electric Cable TV Inc. Mary Frances was a mother who loved her family and grandchildren. She was a member of Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown, where she was a member of the Womens Alliance and Golden Agers and a volunteer for the school cafeteria. She was a member of the Sacred Heart Ladies Auxiliary, Pro Life Activities and Ancient Order of Hibernians, Allentown. She was a breast cancer survivor for 23 years.

Survivors: Daughters, Mary E., wife of Dominic A. Motolese of Sewell, N.J., Patricia A., wife of Jon McNamara of Allentown, Kathleen C., wife of Brian J. Stein of Severn, Md.; sons, Bryan J. of Allentown, Michael J., husband of Jodi A. of Schnecksville, John J.E. of Sewell. She was predeceased by a son, Roger F, two sisters and a brother. Services: Mass of Christian Burial, 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 29, St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 1040 Flexer Ave., Salisbury Twp. Call 4-8:30 p.m. Monday, March 28, and 9-10 a.m. Tuesday in the church. Arrangements, Robert C. Weir Funeral Home, 1802 W. Turner St., Allentown. Contributions: Grace Community Foundation Food Bank, Leukemia Society and American Cancer Society for Breast Cancer.

Published in the Morning Call on 3/24/2005.

Guest Book for Roger J. Scanlan

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Roger J. Scanlan obituary

http://www.legacy.com/CommonCobrand/Pri ... ID=3328175

Roger J. Scanlan

Roger J. Scanlan, 71, of Allentown, died March 20, 2005, in his home. He was the husband of the late Mary Frances (Dunlevy) Scanlan. They were married for 47 years on Nov. 16. Born in Norristown, he was a son of the late Roger F. and Elizabeth M. (Deegan) Scanlan. He was a supervisor of freight rates/transportation for Bethlehem Steel Corp. for 34 years before retiring in 1992. He served in the Air Force in Germany during the Korean War as a Russian linguist. Roger was a family man who loved his family and grandchildren. He loved Notre Dame, game shows and crossword puzzles. He was a member of Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown, where he was a Eucharistic minister, lector and usher for many years. He was head scoutmaster of Cub Scouts Pack 74 for eight years. He was former president of the Men of the Cathedral, a 3rd Degree Knight of Columbus Council 528, Allentown, and a volunteer for Grace Community Foundation Food Bank, Allentown.

He was a graduate of Norristown High School and attended Syracuse (N.Y.) University, St. Josephs University, Philadelphia, and Muhlenberg College, Allentown.

Survivors: Daughters, Mary E., wife of Dominic A. Motolese of Sewell, N.J., Patricia A., wife of Jon McNamara of Allentown, Kathleen C., wife of Brian J. Stein of Severn, Md.; sons, Bryan J. of Allentown, Michael J., husband of Jodi A. of Schnecksville, John J.E. of Sewell; brothers, John F. of Norristown, George B. of Norristown, Bernard M. of Pottstown, William A. of Norristown, Rober E. of Royersford; sisters, Mary Ann M. Romberger of Norristown, Kathleen M. Picozzi of Hatfield; sister-in-law, Constance of Norristown, wife of the predeceased brother, Philip J. He was predeceased by a son, Roger F. Services: Mass of Christian Burial, 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 29, St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 1040 Flexer Ave., Salisbury Twp. Call 4-8:30 p.m. Monday, March 28, and 9-10 a.m. Tuesday in the church. Arrangements, Robert C. Weir Funeral Home, 1802 W. Turner St., Allentown. Contributions: Grace Community Foundation Food Bank, Leukemia Society and American Cancer Society for Breast Cancer.

Published in the Morning Call on 3/24/2005.

Guest Book for Roger F. Scanlan

http://www.legacy.com/MCall/Guestbook.a ... ID=3332204

Roger F. Scanlan obituary

http://www.legacy.com/CommonCobrand/Pri ... ID=3332204

Roger F. Scanlan

Roger F. Scanlan, 45, of Allentown, died March 20, 2005, in his home. He was the son of the late Roger J. and Mary Frances (Dunlevy) Scanlan. He served in the Navy. He loved to play an acoustic guitar. He struggled for 23 years with mental illness. He was a member of Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown.

Survivors: Sisters, Mary E., wife of Dominic A. Motolese of Sewell, N.J., Patricia A., wife of Jon McNamara of Allentown, Kathleen C., wife of Brian J. Stein of Severn, Md.; brothers, Brian J. of Allentown, Michael J., husband of Jodi A. of Schnecksville, John J.E. of Sewell. Services: private. Arrangements, Robert C. Weir Funeral Home, Allentown. Contributions: The Mental Health Association in Northeastern Pennsylvania Youth Deparment.

Published in the Morning Call on 3/25/2005.

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Is mental health system failing?

Post by georgesperosjr » Sun Mar 27, 2005 3:42 am

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From The Morning Call

Is mental health system failing? Law keeps family members from getting help for those who refuse it. Sometimes, the results are deadly.

By Angela Pomponio and Matt Assad
Of The Morning Call

March 27, 2005

After three years in the Navy, Roger F. Scanlan was discharged in 1982 from his San Diego base and sent home to Allentown on a bus. Something had happened, but his family didn't know what. Scanlan was experiencing delusions and turning to alcohol to quiet them, his siblings said. He sought help, but time and again he stopped taking his medicine and his condition spiraled downward. He couldn't hold a job. At one point he was homeless. He rambled about aliens and about God preventing him from playing his guitar. On March 19, Scanlan, 45, became violent. Police believe he fatally stabbed his father and mother, Roger J. and Mary Frances Scanlan, devout Catholics who had spent decades trying to help their son, in their Allentown apartment before taking his own life. Scanlan's siblings, struggling to understand a mental health system that they say kept them at bay, have vowed to seek changes to Pennsylvania law so families can intervene when loved ones with mental illness don't care for themselves.

''My parents aren't going to die a death like this without something changing,'' Michael Scanlan said. How to best balance the rights of mentally ill patients who shun treatment against the concerns of their families or caretakers is a burgeoning debate, particularly in Pennsylvania. Finding a middle ground isn't easy. On one side are those who say the mentally ill should be afforded their civil liberties, including the right to make poor decisions. On the other side are those who believe mentally ill people, particularly those who are violent, should be forced into treatment to protect themselves and others. In the past six years, 16 states have loosened requirements for involuntary commitments to hospitals, but Pennsylvania is not among them. Two bills, however, have been introduced in the state Legislature that would ease the process for families trying to obtain treatment for relatives with mental health problems.

For someone to be involuntarily committed or examined in Pennsylvania, the law requires that the person ''pose a clear and present danger of harm to others or to himself'' and must have done so within the past 30 days. Doctors have sole authority over whether a person should be committed. If someone is admitted against his or her will, doctors only can keep that person for up to five days. A petition can be filed to extend that treatment, however it requires a hearing. Those standards and others like it create confusion for families who want to help a loved one with mental illness, but before ''someone is so psychotic that something is going to happen,'' said John D. Snook, an attorney for the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, Va. The nonprofit center supports fewer restrictions on involuntary commitments and more involuntary after-care programs for patients who repeatedly fail to follow their doctor's orders.

While rare, the tragedy that befell the Scanlan family can be a result of Pennsylvania's law, he said. ''It is the exact worst-case scenario of the standard,'' Snook said. When Gayle Getz of Macungie heard that Roger Scanlan had killed his parents and then himself, memories of her sister's battles with mental illness came flooding back. Her sister, Nancy Smith, who she said was a paranoid schizophrenic, checked in and out of hospitals for years, sometimes declining treatment and any advice from her family. In April 2002, Smith was involuntarily committed to a sixth hospital, and despite Getz's protests, released after a few days. Six weeks later, Getz said, Smith, 65, took an overdose of an over-the-counter pain reliever and died. It wasn't until a week later that her body was discovered in her Fountain Hill apartment. Like Roger Scanlan's siblings, Getz blames a mental health system that she argues put her sister's right to privacy and freedom above the family's concerns for her well-being.

''Our hands were tied,'' Getz said, recalling the many times she and relatives tried to keep Smith in a hospital longer than five days. ''She didn't realize she was that sick. She wasn't capable of caring for herself or she would probably still be alive.''

Treatment shift

Over four decades, views on how to treat the mentally ill have changed drastically, as states aggressively moved from a system of keeping mentally ill people in state hospitals to one that seeks to help them live in the community. In Pennsylvania alone, the number of patients living in state hospitals went from nearly 46,000 in 1969 to 2,269 today. Allentown State Hospital, which once had 2,160 residents, now has 173, and Pennsylvania continues the downsizing. Harrisburg State Hospital is scheduled to close its last 260 beds by the end of the year, and though members of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill support the closing, they say the state is moving too quickly and without setting up enough support programs in the community. Most argue that deinstitutionalization is a more humane way to handle mentally ill people, but advocates also say that too many states closed state hospital beds without setting up enough programs to treat mentally ill people in the community.

''We don't oppose the closing of Harrisburg State, but we don't think the timetable is realistic,'' said James Jordan, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Pennsylvania. ''What services are being developed and what money is following them into the community? These are issues that must be addressed before beds are closed.'' The result from all the downsizing is that families such as the Scanlans are left with the burden of keeping their mentally ill loved ones from harming themselves or others.

No warning

Roger Scanlan's siblings still don't know how he unraveled in the Navy, where he was a cook. Eventually, after his return to Allentown, Roger Scanlan moved into his parents' two-bedroom apartment on S. Jefferson Street, where the couple looked after him. If Roger was taking his medicine, his parents got glimpses of the son they sent off to the Navy. If he wasn't, they frequently had to call the Lehigh County crisis intervention hotline, which sent staffers to help them with the involuntary commitment process, referred to as a ''302'' under state law. Roger's last 302, his brother Michael Scanlan said, was in September. Whether Roger had stopped taking his medicine, or it wasn't working, the family does not know. ''We always had advance warning,'' Michael Scanlan said. ''You knew when the bad was coming. He'd start calling our houses. He would be off balance and talking nonsense.''

Not this time.

After Roger J. Scanlan, 71, didn't meet his brother at a high school reunion in Norristown on March 19 as planned, relatives grew concerned about Roger and his wife, 70. No one answered the couple's phone, so Michael Scanlan drove to their apartment. He called police last Sunday when he saw their car parked outside. The bodies of Roger J. Scanlan and his son were found in the dining room. Mary Frances Scanlan was a few feet away near a hallway. As Michael Scanlan and his siblings prepare to bury their parents Tuesday, they're frustrated that state laws kept them from learning more about their brother's mental health history and making decisions on his behalf. Getting Roger into facilities, keeping him there or watching over his after-care should not have been as difficult for his elderly parents, Michael Scanlan said. ''This is what they dealt with for twenty-some years,'' he said.

Freedom vs. safety

Cries for new state laws come up against pleas that the mentally ill are unfairly targeted. ''The challenge is balancing the personal freedom of the mentally ill individual with the right of the community, in the interest of safety, to force the mentally ill to get help,'' said Jordan, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Pennsylvania, official. ''I don't have an answer, but I know this is an issue we need to take a fresh look at.'' Jordan said his organization has not taken a position on whether Pennsylvania's law should be changed to make it easier to involuntarily commit the mentally ill, but he said he knows the law has caused confusion. Some responders interpret ''clear and present danger'' as presenting an immediately physical threat, while others are willing to commit patients who make verbal threats. ''At the very least, we need to provide some training to get everyone on the same page,'' Jordan said. ''There needs to be more consistency.''

Michael Allen, senior staff attorney at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, D.C., argues that changes to the mental health system should be focused on providing more services for the mentally ill and their affected families, not on extending someone's stay in an institution. Allen said violence like that shown by Roger Scanlan is ''incredibly rare.'' ''Unfortunately, despite that rarity they tend to drive these types of calls for changing the laws,'' Allen said. ''It diverts attention from the important work that needs to be done.''

Infuriated, frustrated

Getz, whose sister died of an overdose, was so infuriated with one hospital that she once refused to leave it unless her sister was committed against her will. Her sister, who began having paranoid thoughts in the early 1980s, had taken off on random road trips. Police in other states would call Getz's home in the middle of night, informing her that her sister was dazed and had been driving aimlessly through a city. Once, a farmer found her sister sleeping in a truck parked in his barn, Getz said. Her car was found abandoned on the side of a highway. Another year, her sister's car was found by a lake in Ohio. Police searched the water looking for her body until a searcher found her curled up, sleeping, inside a boat. In 2002, Smith packed her belongings into her car and left Fountain Hill for Washington, D.C. She was headed for the White House. ''She had this whole packet on how to address the educational system in the United States,'' Getz said. ''She was going to tell the president how to do it.''

A police officer stopped her near Hagerstown, Md., driving the wrong way on a street. Smith, Getz said, told the officer that she was in Pennsylvania. Smith was admitted to a Maryland hospital and Getz insisted her sister be kept for longer than a few days. Her pleas fell flat once again. Smith took a bus back to Pennsylvania and refused to talk to Getz. ''There were many times where I thought, 'Did I do something wrong?''' Getz said. ''Then, there were other times where I thought I did the best I could. It was so frustrating.''

Family burden

The burden on families is a reason state Rep. Stephen R. Maitland, R-Adams, has made strengthening Pennsylvania's mental health law a priority. Maitland got involved after a woman in his district told him of a mentally ill acquaintance who had been stalking her for 20 years. It forced her to move, plan her wedding in secret and hold it 100 miles away, but because the man was not judged to be ''an immediate threat to himself or others,'' the man's family could not force him to get help. Maitland's bill would ease the restrictions necessary to involuntarily commit a mentally ill person to ''protect them from predictable deterioration.'' State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, in January introduced similar legislation in the Senate. ''Under current law the mentally ill person just about has to have a gun to someone's head to be eligible for involuntary commitment,'' Maitland said of Pennsylvania's standard.

''We're not talking about taking away a person's rights to freedom, we're talking about getting them help at a time when they aren't capable of understanding that they need it. We need to be able to get them help before they hurt someone, not after.'' Both lawmakers' bills require outpatient after-care for the patients involuntarily committed, a move modeled after New York's ''Kendra's Law.'' The New York law, established in 1999, is named after Kendra Webdale, who was pushed in front of a subway train by a man who failed to take his medicine for schizophrenia. His family said he did not receive proper treatment once released from hospitals. Unlike Pennsylvania law, Kendra's Law allows someone to be ordered into outpatient treatment to prevent a relapse. There is no need to wait until a person is dangerous to themselves or others.

Funding needed for after-care

Still, M. Elizabeth Miosi, administrator for Lehigh County's mental health and mental retardation department, said she doubts any law could prevent another tragedy from happening. ''It's very difficult to predict violence, whether it's in a family with mental illness or not,'' Miosi said. ''I don't think it's just about the mental health system.'' That's why she would rather work on removing the stigma of mental illness, an effort she thinks encourages people to seek and continue treatment. Maitland acknowledges that even if his bill becomes law, it's hollow without money to support after-care programs. As part of the continued Allentown State Hospital downsizing, Northampton and Lehigh counties joined the statewide Community/Hospital Integration Project Program. CHIPPs, as it is known, provides programs and money to treat state hospital patients being released into the community, and programs to keep mentally ill people from needing to be committed to the state hospital.

About $9 million is spent Valleywide, but is it enough? ''Of course it's not enough, not nearly enough'' said Marjorie Martin, deputy administrator of Northampton County Mental Health Services. ''But when you look at data regarding mental illness nationwide, it's hard to imagine ever having enough to treat the problem.'' The Scanlan tragedy is likely to focus more attention on the already controversial subject of caring for the mentally ill. For the Scanlan family, channeling its overwhelming grief into changing Pennsylvania law is the only way to go on.



Copyright © 2005, The Morning Call


Post by Guest » Tue Apr 26, 2005 6:46 am

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