Clouds gave way to sunshine this week at the Glenwood Resource Center.
And it had nothing to do with the first day of summer.
After more than a decade operating under a cloud of controversy the resource center received some sunlight last Tuesday in the form of an Iowa Department of Health and Human Services announcement that the care facility for people with developmental disabilities has substantially met compliance with a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights decree.
The ruling comes more than six years after the resource center and sister facility, the Woodward Resource Center, hatched a consent agreement to clean up their act and improve the standard of care at the state’s two largest care facilities or face a DOJ lawsuit. The federal mandate stemmed from a 1999 civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of residents at the two facilities.
The 2004 settlement demanded improvements in nearly every area of service, from clinical care to psychology. Following their initial investigation almost a decade ago, federal regulators mandated the resource center limit the use of restraints, update oversight policies for staff and improve nutritional and pharmaceutical care of the facility’s more than 300 residents, many who suffer profound mental retardation.
Woodward reached “substantial compliance” with the DOJ’s benchmarks last year, but the larger Glenwood facility needed another year. Last month, DHS and DOJ filed a notice in federal court saying that the facility had met the standards. The federal court ruled in April the resource center had met those compliance standards but the official announcement was not made until Tuesday.
Gov. Chet Culver, DHS Director Charlie Krogmeier, interim GRC superintendent Kelly Brodie and Richard Crouch, president of the GRC parents group, were all in attendance at Tuesday’s announcement just outside the Meyers Building on the resource center campus. Each took turns speaking to the crowd of more than 100 on a stage flanked by balloons and a banner that read “Great Job GRC!”
In an interview following the announcement, Culver called the announcement a positive moment for the facility.
“I think it’s a real step forward,” Culver said. “A lot of work has gone into the improvement over the last six years. So I think it’s important to pause and celebrate that progress but to also re-committ ourselves to providing the best possible care.”
Culver, who spent more than 40 minutes following the ceremony shaking hands and talking to staff and residents, said the resource center’s policy changes and overall care improvements could not have been made were it not for a “team effort.”
“You’re talking about state and federal cooperation, inter-agency, the attorney general’s office, DHHS, staff and leadership here at the resource center, our staff, the legislature, it has taken all of those entities rowing in the same direction working together,” he said. “That’s one reason we were able to comply with the Department of Justice requirements.”
Where the resource center goes from here is up for debate in light of the state’s continuing budget crisis and a nation-wide movement among states to eliminate large, state-run hospitals in favor of more residential treatment facilities. One thing is clear, however, Culver said the resource center will continue to provide the best care possible to residents.
“It’s our goal to provide the best possible care in the country right here in Glenwood and to make this the best resource center in the United States. So we want to build on this momentum we have now and to learn from things that have happened in the past and make sure they don’t happen again.”