116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Gov. Kim Reynolds announced last week that the state will move to shut down the Glenwood Resource Center over the next two years. The facility for people with severe intellectual disabilities has been plagued by problems, leading to a federal investigation into charges of inadequate medical care and that staff subjected patients to sexual arousal experiments, violating their constitutional rights.
The U.S. Department of Justice contends that Iowa’s reliance institutional care settings, likely in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, must yield to community-based care. So, despite the understandable angst the announcement has spawned among patients’ families and Glenwood employees, the closure is the right course of action.
Now the focus must be on how the Department of Human Services will transition Glenwood’s 152 patients to different care settings. The state’s track record is poor.
In 2015, following the abrupt closure of centers in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda, three former patients died. The Des Moines Register reported that the patients had been transferred to nursing homes with poor quality ratings.
After the closure of a facility for girls in Toledo, a federal lawsuit revealed that two Iowa teens sent to a facility in Wisconsin were abused by staff and kept in isolation 22 hours daily. Iowa human services staff did not visit the Copper Lake Center before contracting for the teens’ care.
Iowa must do far better with the Glenwood transition. Fortunately, the two-year time frame, compared to the previous abrupt closures, will increase the chances for the “seamless and successful transition” Reynolds has promised.
Closing Glenwood doesn’t solve a problem. It creates dozens of new challenges as patients are transitioned to community care. That care must be high-quality and adequate to meet patient needs. Meeting that threshold should be the main goal, not meeting a timeline.
We’ll be watching. And so should state lawmakers. Although the Republican-controlled Legislature has been reluctant to provide much oversight of the Republican governor’s actions, it needs to closely monitor this transition. A Legislative Oversight Committee was scheduled to discuss the Glenwood situation in 2020, but was canceled due to the pandemic and was not rescheduled. That sort of hands-off oversight approach must change with lives at stake.
The closure announcement made headlines. But it’s the transition that truly matters.
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