Staff Editorial

Iowa can't wait for a crisis to care

The entrance to the Iowa Juvenile Home is shown on Monday, January 13, 2014 in Toledo, Iowa. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The entrance to the Iowa Juvenile Home is shown on Monday, January 13, 2014 in Toledo, Iowa. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

This week, Dr. Mohammad Rehman the medical director of Glenwood Resource Center, a state institution for disabled Iowans, stepped down from his job. The Des Moines Register reported that he stepped down “in lieu of termination” after there was huge spike in deaths among the residents at the center and after he authorized a “sexual arousal” study on residents there without their knowledge or approval.

Dr. Rehman’s forced resignation is a good first step, but it shouldn’t be seen as the final step in addressing the cycle of abuse and human rights violations at Iowa’s state run institutions.

Iowa has a sad history of failing our most vulnerable, and not just during a pandemic.

Previously, In Toledo, after reports of egregious abuse led to the closure of the Juvenile Home, the teens were sent to a facility in Wisconsin where they faced more abuse, according to federal lawsuits filed in 2017.

In March, a Federal judge ruled that the Iowa Boys State Training School violated the rights of the students there by not providing adequate mental health care and using restraints.

In addition to Glenwood, each of these situations points to severe lack of oversight and lack of consideration or care for the residents in each of these homes. In the past, The Gazette’s Editorial Board has called for further investigation and oversight and public hearings to protect the health and safety of all Iowans. In February, we argued, “New laws must be written, which will protect vulnerable Iowans from abuse at the hands of a state-run system that thus far has proved to be brutal and unsafe. Iowa must stop being reactive to these gross violations of human rights and must be proactive in preventing them in the future.”

We still believe strongly that, while Dr. Rehnman’s resignation is a necessary move, the job of fixing Iowa’s state run institutions doesn’t end here. Now more than ever, it’s crucial that we work to fix the broken systems and structures that put vulnerable Iowans at risk.

Iowa cannot wait for another crisis to care. We have to act now.

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