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DHS Top Official Knew Of Alleged Glenwood Experiments, Email Shows

A sunny day at the Statehouse
John Pemble
IPR file photo
One Iowa lawmaker is calling for an investigation into the Glenwood Resource Center following emails released by the Department of Human Services

An email released from the Department of Human Services Monday shows a top official had knowledge of alleged controversial experiments conducted at Glenwood Resource Center.

The email shows Rick Shults, a long time top administrator at DHS who has recently retired, approving Glenwood Director Jerry Rea’s software request for a project on the "treatment of sexual preoccupation issues" in May 2018.

Representative Dave Deyoe, a Republican from Nevada, is part of a group of lawmakers who met with DHS officials last year about the center for people with severe intellectual disabilities. He said he doesn’t think they got permission from patients’ families for any studies beforehand.

"We know nothing happened because the department actually retroactively started going out and trying to get approvals, you know, after it had already happened. And that was last fall," Deyoe said.

Deyoe said he and other lawmakers were "suspicious" at that time about what was happening at the center.

"We were already told by a number of individuals that some of the medication protocols had been changed, and guardians weren't notified," he said.

Representative Ruth Ann Gaines, a Democrat from Des Moines who is a ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, says she will pressure Republicans to hold oversight hearings.

"With this new information, it is our job as lawmakers to find out what's going on either directly from Glenwood medical staff or from DHS," she said. "But we need to look into it and find out what's going on."

Republican lawmakers have been saying they want to wait for the results of the ongoing federal investigation of Glenwood before launching their own investigation. 

Rea was fired by DHS at the end of last year. The letter, signed by Shults, said Rea's dismissal was "a result of a list of mounting disregard for policies and procedures."

The federal Department of Justice is currently investigating the state-run center for violation patients' rights and running harmful and uncontrolled human subject experiments.

Earlier this month, a group of former employees filed a lawsuit against DHS, alleging that Rea, a child psychiatrist, was conducting sexual arousal research on patients. 

"It's clear there was an intent to conduct research, and we're working with our state and federal partners to determine what did and did not happen," said DHS Spokesperson Matt Highland, in a statement.

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter
Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter