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State to close Glenwood facility for disabled Iowans in 2024
Announcement follows fed investigation into treatment of residents
DES MOINES — A state facility for Iowans with intellectual and developmental disabilities that has been under scrutiny from federal investigators will be closed in 2024, state leaders announced Thursday.
The state will relocate the 152 Glenwood residents to another facility or into community-based care, and also assist the roughly 650 Glenwood staffers in finding a new job, according to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office.
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.
The U.S. Department of Justice opened its investigation into the Glenwood and Woodward resource centers in 2019.
In 2020, federal officials found the Glenwood facility likely violated the constitutional rights of residents by subjecting them to human experiments, including sexual arousal research.
Over a five-year period ending in June 2020, Glenwood housed an average of 195 residents and had an average of 655 staff members, according to a state audit published this past December.
The average per-patient cost of care was nearly $384,000, according to the audit.
State lawmakers this week proposed a $16.3 million budget for Glenwood for the coming state fiscal year, an increase of $1.5 million over the previous year.
The Department of Justice 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.
“While necessary, the decision to close the Glenwood Resource Center is a difficult one that I take very seriously,” Reynolds said in a news release.
“For many residents, it’s the only home they’ve ever known,” she said. “I am fully committed to a seamless and successful transition of care for them, their families and the staff at Glenwood.
“Iowans with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve quality care that aligns with the expectations of the (U.S. Department of Justice). Our best path forward to achieve those standards is closing (Glenwood) and reinvesting in a community-based care continuum that offers a broad array of services.”
Glenwood staff will be offered retention incentives to continue working at the facility over the next two years, and the state will assist staff in finding new jobs, Reynolds’ office said.
The state also will work with local government officials and community leaders to minimize the impact on the city of Glenwood and Mills County, Reynolds’ office said.
Thursday’s announcement was made jointly by Reynolds and Republican leaders in the Iowa Legislature — House Speaker Pat Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver.
“Despite significant effort over the last two years to improve care and respond to DOJ directives, continued operation of the Glenwood Resource Center has become untenable,” Whitver said in the news release.
Democratic Statehouse leaders in a statement also expressed their desire to work with Glenwood residents, staff and community members during the transition.
Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls and House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst in their joint statement criticized the state’s management of Glenwood under Republican leadership.
“This decision became inevitable because of years of indifference and neglect shown to the Glenwood community by Governor Reynolds and Republican lawmakers. This transition must be handled far better than previous closures, like those in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant,” Wahls’ and Konfrst’s statement said, referring to the closure of state-run mental health care institutions in those communities.
“As state lawmakers, we have an obligation to ensure the safest and smoothest transition possible for all those impacted by the planned closure. The people whose lives are affected deserve the dignity and respect of a transition that ensures their safety, security, and futures.”
The Glenwood Resource Center opened in 1876.
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The Associated Press contributed to this story.