This story was updated at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday she can't comment on a lawsuit brought by former staff of the troubled state-run Glenwood Resource Center for severely disabled residents.
The lawsuit, first reported Tuesday by the Des Moines Register, alleges top officials directed the purchase of silk sheets and pornographic images and used patients as “guinea pigs” in sexual arousal studies.
It claims they changed patients’ medications for the studies, and that actions by facility leaders led to worse medical care and more patient deaths.
“We are working with the attorney general to see what we do and moving forward with this—we want to make sure—my priority is to make sure that I’m protecting the state’s interest as well as the residents in Glenwood,” Reynolds said.
She would not say if current Glenwood Medical Director Mohammad Rehman, who is named in the lawsuit, will be disciplined. Jerry Rea has already been fired from his job as Glenwood superintendent.
Reynolds also fired former Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven in June 2019. Asked Wednesday if his firing was related to the allegations coming out of Glenwood, Reynolds repeated her statement that “many factors” went into that decision.
Reynolds declined to say when she knew about the allegations of experimentation, which became public late last year as part of an ongoing federal investigation of Glenwood and a similar facility in Woodward.
Speaking at a committee meeting, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said Reynolds should explain the timing of when she learned about the claims of mistreatment.
“I know that this human experimentation is extraordinarily troubling, but also the quality of the care of the people that live there seems to be under threat,” Bolkcom said. “I appreciate we’ve got a lawsuit, but she’s got to have something to say to these families.”
DHS Director Kelly Garcia said she has been “acting decisively” since learning the details of the federal investigation. She said the agency has asked for additional resources and for assistance from outside experts to improve conditions at the Glenwood center.
“I asked myself, if my children lived at that facility, what would I expect in terms of a response?” Garcia said at a Senate Human Resources Committee meeting where lawmakers were considering her confirmation as director of DHS. “What assurances would I need to know that my babies were safe?”
The House and Senate this week approved $333,000 to assist with state investigations of the facilities.