Ernst Calls GRC Death Numbers "Alarming'
In a letter sent Thursday to U.S. Attorney Gen. William Barr and U.S. Assistant Attorney Gen. Eric S. Drelband, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) called the number of client deaths at the Glenwood Resource Center since June 2018 “alarming” and requested that updates be provided on the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) ongoing investigation of alleged civil rights violations at the Glenwood Resource Center (GRC) and the Woodward Resource Center (WRC)
In her letter, Ernst encouraged Barr and Drelband to use the full extent of their authority under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act and Title H of the Americans with Disabilities Act to “conduct a thorough investigation” to determine if laws have been broken.
Ernst expressed concern about a “delay” in initiating the investigation, noting that 14 GRC residents reportedly died between June 2018 and April 2019 and three deaths have been reported in the past two months.
“I respectfully request your response to the following questions,” Ernst wrote.
“When did the Department of Justice first become aware of this alarming increase in reported deaths at the Glenwood Center? What prevented the Department from initiating this investigation more quickly?”
Ernst said the federal government and elected officials have a duty to protect vulnerable citizens.
“These troubling reports will be of upmost concern to communities across Iowa and particularly to the residents of these centers, their families and their loved ones,” she said.
A news release from Ernst issued the same day her letter was sent to Barr and Drelband, said the “Glenwood Resource Center has a history of disturbing mistreatment of its residents,” noting that in 2017, state inspectors determined the facility failed to report allegations of abuse and did not address incidents of suspicious injuries and mistreatment of residents.
In 2017, five former GRC staff members pleaded guilty to neglect of residents and eight additional employees were terminated or resigned as a result of Iowa Department of Human Services (IDHS) and law enforcement investigations.
The GRC is a state-managed and operated facility for more than 200 people with profound intellectual and physical disabilities. In November, the DOJ notified Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds that investigators were looking into allegations that some clients were being mistreated and were the subject of experimentation pertaining to sexual arousal.
According to a letter to Reynolds from an assistant attorney general representing the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, federal attorneys are investigating four areas - allegations of “harmful” human experiments performed on residents; inadequate medical care and nutrition; needless restraint practices; and incidents that resulted in physical injury to residents.
As a result of the allegations and investigation, the IDHS has placed GRC Admininistrator Dr. Jerry Rea on leave. Marsha Edgington, superintendent at the Woodward Resource Center, has been named the interim superintendent at the GRC, according to IDHS.