COLUMN: Inevitable News Is Still Tough To Digest

Editor Joe Foreman

I honestly can’t say I was surprised to hear last week’s announcement that Gov. Reynolds and the State of Iowa are going to close the Glenwood Resource Center in 2024.

Downsizing at  the facility that has served children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities for 146 years has been going on for decades while comments and actions from the governor, Iowa Department of Human Services officials and even our local legislators in recent years made it pretty clear the facility’s days were probably numbered.

Despite an outcome that almost seemed inevitable, it was still tough to stomach Thursday’s announcement. Even though you think the bad news is probably coming some day, it’s still difficult to accept when it actually happens.

Every report or story I’ve read or watched on television about the GRC closure has played  up the fact that the facility was recently the subject of an investigation by the Department  of Justice.  The investigation, which uncovered some troubling information about questionable experimentation  involving GRC clients and the perceived violation of civil rights against clients housed at the facility, received prominent mention  in the governor’s announcement Thursday, so I’m guessing many people assume the investigation is the sole reason for the closure.

While it may very well have been the straw that broke the camel’s back,  I personally believe the investigation simply gave the governor, legislature and IDHS a reason to do something they’ve been wanting and felt pressure to do for a long time.

For many years now, there’s been a vocal push from some sectors of the public for “deinstitutionalization” and integrating persons with disabilities into the community.

During their investigation, DOJ investigators determined “there is reasonable cause to believe Iowa fails to provide services to residents of the resource centers or those at serious risk of institutionalization in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.”

The investigation concluded that Iowa’s model for care of persons with intellectual and physical disabilities “is heavily biased towards institutionalization.”
Following the report of the findings of the DOJ investigation in 2019, new IDHS Director Kelly Garcia, an appointee brought in from Texas by Gov. Reynolds, said she was committed to providing the most independent lives possible for persons under the care of her department.

Garcia’s comment was made just days after her hiring. Subsequent legislative discusson about the GRC’s future, including public comments from State Sen. Mark Costello and State Rep. David Sieck, became less encouraging.

On the surface, “Deinstitutionalization” sounds like a good thing. The goal should be for all persons to live as independently as possible,  but the reality is there are people in our society with profound disabilities that cannot live outside a setting like the GRC. They need around-the-clock care that’s becoming growingly scarce. Unfortunately, closure of the GRC takes away one more option for those who need the high level of care and services the facility, and others like it, provide.

The Opinion-Tribune

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