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Top DHS official says Glenwood will close because state is unable to comply with federal demands

The Glenwood Resource Center is a state-run facility for Iowans with severe disabilities.
Katie Peikes
IPR File
The Glenwood Resource Center is a state-run facility for Iowans with severe disabilities.

A top state officials said the Glenwood Resource Center will close because the state is unable to comply with federal requirements.

At a Council on Human Services meeting Thursday, Kelly Garcia, the director of the Department of Human Services, called the decision to close Glenwood "devastating."

But Garcia said she and Gov. Kim Reynolds determined no financial investment would be enough to get the facility in compliance with federal demands.

"Neither one of us, at any point, have had a desire to get to this point. But ultimately, I have to assure her and everyone out there that we are able to provide safe care and I can't do that right now," she said.

Last week, Reynolds announced the facility's closure, set to happen in 2024, in a news release.

In 2020, a federal investigation by the Department of Justice determined the state-run facility for Iowans with intellectual disabilities provided substandard care and permitted harmful human subject experimentations.

In the past two years, Garcia said DHS has made "really significant efforts out there and seen a lot of progress" towards its improvement plan, but ultimately, could not make enough progress in critical areas like clinical care.

"Despite our best...recruitment efforts, a significant amount of money offered to try to recruit a medical officer out of that campus, we have not been able to secure one," Garcia said. "We went down very recently to six nurses to serve 153 individuals. It's not enough.”

Garcia fired former Glenwood Superintendent Jerry Rea in late 2019 shortly after the DOJ's letter on the investigation became public.

Former medical director Mohammad Rehman resigned several months later "in leu of termination," according to the Des Moines Register.

Woodward Resource Center Superintendent Marcia Edgington has served as interim Glenwood superintendent since Rea's dismissal.

Garcia said when Edgington took over Glenwood, they found a number of policies were "just completely taken offline," including training on using restraints.

"We had poor outcomes after that happened — really high number of restraints, and some really bad outcomes with restraints," she said.

Garcia said DHS is working with residents, their families and the staff at Glenwood to prepare for the facility's closure while working on improving Iowa's home and community care service options.

Last December, a separate DOJ investigation determined there was "reasonable cause" to believe the state is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide enough community-based care options to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Garcia said DHS has asked state lawmakers for $25 million to invest in home and community care-based services.

But some of the families of Glenwood residents have said they're not sure their family member can live in the community, she said.

"What I would say to that is absolutely everyone can be served to the community with the right type of support," Garcia said.

DHS officials addressing concerns about Afghan refugee services

On Thursday, Garcia said DHS is making sure Afghan refugees have the resources they need to settle into Iowa.

This comes after news reports, such as a Des Moines Register investigation, found some families were living in extended-stay hotels while running out of food and could not contact their caseworkers.

DHS is the Iowa's state-designated authority to work with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement to resettle refugees across the state.

The state partners with several local resettlement agencies, who provide many services.

DHS officials have visited with Afghan families directly to determine that they are getting essential services like housing and food assistance, she said.

"I feel like we, I think, have broken open all of the challenges that they're experiencing, and have that established — reestablished — that connection, [and they] have a direct line to us so that we can problem solve for them," Garcia said.

The U.S. has resettled more than 75,000 Afghan refugees since their country fell to the Taliban last August following the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter