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New nonprofit hopes to fill gaps left by closure of Glenwood Resource Center

A group of people stand outside the Council Bluffs office. They are cutting a red ribbon.
Courtesy of Community Options
The non-profit opened in Council Bluffs earlier this month.

Council Bluffs is expanding its treatment options for Iowans with developmental disabilities, after the announcement that the nearby Glenwood Resource Center would be closing.

The imminent closure of the center, a state-run institution for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities, will leave around 135 people in need of care. The national nonprofit Community Options is opening a new location in southwest Iowa to help fulfill the needs of those no longer able to stay at the facility.

The organization will move around 32 Iowans out of the Glenwood institution and into community homes, as well as serve as a consultant for local organizations hoping to serve the facility’s former residents.

Community Options CEO Robert Stack said the transition from a large institution to small four-bedroom homes will change the lives of former Glenwood residents for the better.

“They will be able to make choices individually about their own lives. That's all anyone wants to do,” Stack said. “They won't be told what time to get up in the morning and what time to go to bed at night. They will be treated as adults.”

The Glenwood Resource Center’s closure was announced in April of this year, after a 2020 federal investigation by the Department of Justice determined the facility provided substandard care and permitted harmful human subject experimentations.

Its closure comes at a time when many states are moving away from group care in institutions toward individualized care in homes. In the last five decades, the number of people living in institutions has decreased by around 91%. Seventeen states in the U.S. have eliminated institutional care entirely, according to University of Minnesota research.

“They will be able to make choices individually about their own lives. That's all anyone wants to do."
Robert Slack, CEO of Community Options

Iowa’s two state-run facilities, Glenwood and Woodward resource centers, are currently home to around 285 people with disabilities.

Sack said the organization was approached by Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Public Health to help move Iowa away from institutional care.

Iowa Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia said in a statement that she was grateful for the partnership with Community Options and other providers bringing care to "the most vulnerable Iowans."

"Our state has relied on institutionalization of individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities for far too long. Our focus is now shifting to building out supports in the community which allows people to live in the least restrictive setting as possible," Garcia said.

Founded in New Jersey, Community Options has worked in 11 states to provide similar services, including Texas, Tennessee and South Carolina.

The organization could also help provide employment for some of the center’s direct care professionals who will lose their jobs with the closure of GRC. Stack said the organization would greatly benefit from experienced care providers in their homes.

“We're constantly advertising all the time to try to get quality people who want to work for people with disabilities in the community based settings,” he said.

The first home will be opening next month. Stack said the organization hopes to open eight houses by the summer of 2024.

The Glenwood Resource Center is scheduled to close in April of 2024.

Kendall was Iowa Public Radio’s western Iowa reporter based in Sioux City, IA until Jan. 20, 2023.