GRC Report Card Released

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Study Shows Progress, Areas For Improvement

By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

An independent study of the Glenwood Resource Center by a private agency is complete and the state’s largest residential care and treatment facility for people with mental and developmental disabilities has received generally high marks, according to Gov. Chet Culver.

The review, Culver said, conducted by Pennsylvania-based Liberty Healthcare, found the resource center has made considerable strides in improving quality of care in compliance with a 2004 U.S Department of Justice court order, The 136-page report went on to recommend the hiring of permanent leadership at the facility and improvements in staff training procedures.

“More importantly, the report points to areas that need additional improvement and attention. We are going to give all of these recommendations a careful review as we consider further changes at Glenwood. Improving care is an on-going commitment and this report is an important part of the process,” Governor Culver said in a press release along with the final report, which is available to the public at www.governor.iowa.gov.

Liberty Healthcare was paid $197,000 to conduct the review and prepare a report on operations and procedures at Glenwood. The Glenwood Resource Center cares for more than 300 clients ranging in age from 9 to 98. The 133-year old, 1,200-acre facility employees more than 900 and has an annual budget of $80 million.

Culver ordered the independent review last November after 12 “unexpected deaths” occurred at the facility last year. Two of those deaths led to an investigation by the Department of Justice and more than $15,000 in fines administered by state inspectors. In all the Glenwood Resource Center has been fined more than $50,000 in the last 18 months.

The 12 deaths in 2008 were one more than 2006 and 2007 combined. Through nine months of 2009 just two deaths have occurred at the facility.

“The governor thought it would be useful to have someone come to see if there was a need for changes. He thought an independent investigator was called for,” said Roger Munns, spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Human Services. “They concluded there were no systemic issues of medical service that would have led to any of these deaths, which is happily the same conclusion the Department of Justice had.”

In April the Department of Justice completed its own review of the 12 deaths at the Glenwood facility in 2008 and concluded no “systemic issues” in medical care or staff procedures.

Later that same month, Iowa Protection and Advocacy Services (IPAS), a privately run network of agencies created to help monitor the rights of the disabled, asked the state to close the Glenwood facility, calling its model of care “antiquated,” and keeping it open was “not in the best interest of its residents.”

Munns said there are no plans to shutter the Glenwood facility.

The Woodward Resource Center, Glenwood’s sister facility, which had also been operating under the same DOJ court order, was deemed in full compliance with that writ earlier this year. Munns said many of the changes undertaken at Woodward are being implemented in Glenwood.

“There’s been an incomparable effort the last few years to meet the high standards of the Department of Justice and we’re on the final leg of doing that and it will be a proud day, frankly, when they get our letter to say ‘at last,’” Munns said. “That is our focus right now. And then our next focus will be to maintain that. It’s not just reaching a goal and saying have a nice day. You have to reach a goal and sustain according to the agreement.”

The DOJ recently completed a compliance evaluation in Glenwood and Munns said he’s encouraged by their initial findings.

“The exit interviews were very encouraging,” he said. “We don’t make too much of that, we’re happy, but we’ll wait until we get the actual letter,” he said. Munns was not aware of when the DOJ will release its final report."

While the Liberty Healthcare notes several areas of quality care, the report does raise concerns about the facility’s dated infection-control policies, under staffing, nurse training, a failure by supervisors to conduct timely job reviews and that its staff training is “costly and inefficient.” Also noted were concerns about incidents of resident-on-resident abuse, medication distribution issues and procedures for reporting life-threatening situations at the facility.

After reviewing the report and meeting with DHS Director Charlie Krogmeier, the governor said in his statement that his office will concentrate immediate priorities on:

* Presenting the findings of the report to GRC staff.

* Hiring a permanent superintendent for Glenwood no later than Nov. 1.

* Developing a plan, along with the superintendent, to implement the necessary changes.