Iowa to close long-troubled center for disabled people
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa center for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities that has been the subject of persistent criticism and federal investigations will close, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday.
The Glenwood Resource Center, which has treated vulnerable people since the early 1900s, will close by June 30, 2024. The facility, about 115 miles (185 kilometers) southwest of Des Moines, has 152 patients and a staff of about 650.
The state will begin moving patients out in July by sending about 60 to another state-run facility in Woodward and 10 others into community housing facilities. Over the next year, transitions will continue until the center is closed, with plans to sell the facility by July 1, 2024.
Reynolds announced the closure months after the U.S. Department of Justice issued a strong condemnation of the way Iowa treats people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
A letter and report sent to the state in December by Justice Department officials indicated that Iowa was needlessly institutionalizing people with intellectual disabilities and that the state’s treatment likely violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide services that integrate patients into their communities.
“Iowans with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve quality care that aligns with the expectations of the DOJ. Our best path forward to achieve those standards is closing GRC and reinvesting in a community-based care continuum that offers a broad array of services,” Reynolds said in a statement.
Her statement also included comments from Republican legislative leaders in support of the decision.
Democratic leaders Sen. Zach Wahls and Rep. Jennifer Konfrst said in a statement that the decision was inevitable “because of years of indifference and neglect shown to the Glenwood community by Governor Reynolds and Republican lawmakers.”
The DOJ report said Iowa officials have known for years that community-based support for people with complex medical and behavioral needs is insufficient and have acknowledged they have failed to meaningfully assess the capacity of the community service system.
Federal officials said Iowa has one of the nation’s highest percentages of residents with intellectual disabilities who live in institutions.
A 2002 DOJ investigation found that conditions at Glenwood and Woodward were constitutionally deficient. An agreement was reached then for the state to “encourage and assist people to move to the most integrated settings.”
The state got a grant in 2007 to help overcome its approach that favored institutionalizing people, but the December 2021 report said the state had failed to adequately develop community services and support including crisis intervention.
On Nov. 21, 2019, the DOJ notified Iowa of a new investigation, and in a December 2020 report, federal officials said the Glenwood center likely violated the constitutional rights of residents by subjecting them to human experiments, including sexual arousal research. Some of the experiments were deemed dangerous by federal investigators.
Reynolds promised a smooth transition for the residents, assistance in helping state workers find other jobs and help in identifying alternative uses for the Glenwood campus after it closes.