R. Scot Booth is the new superintendent of the Glenwood Resource Center.
But in a previous life, some 35 years ago, Booth was a star right-handed pitcher at Long Island University who turned down a contract offer with the Texas Rangers to pursue another dream: advocating for special education students in the New York Public Schools.
“I have the same passion for this job and this world as I did on that mound 35 years ago trying to strike somebody out,” said the Brooklyn-born Booth. “I'm an advocate and advocates are passionate people.”
Booth, 56, took over at the state's largest residential care and treatment facility for people with mental and developmental disabilities on Oct. 26 from interim superintendent Kelly Brodie. He brings with him more than 30 years experience in the field of developmentally disabled treatment as a teacher, facility director and consultant.
For over a decade Booth was a consultant for the Columbus Organization, a non-profit group specializing is helping state agencies meet standards required by the Department of Justice and federal centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.
The last three years Booth served as the Executive Director of the Los Lunas Community Project in Los Lunas, New Mexico, serving 120 people with intense behavioral or medical needs. Prior to his stint in New Mexico, he held similar positions assisting the developmentally disabled in New York, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Booth is well aware of the spate of bad press and federal scrutiny Glenwood has received in recent years: a 2004 Department of Justice (DOJ) court order to improve quality of care and investigation into 12 “unexpected deaths” in 2008, more than $50,000 in fines in the last 18 months, and a demand by a no-profit advocacy group to shutter the facility.
An independent review of the facility completed earlier this fall by Pennsylvania-based Liberty Healthcare found the resource center has made considerable strides in improving quality of care. The 136-page report went on to recommend several areas of needed improvement. Chief among those recommendations was the hiring of a new permanent superintendent.
“My knowledge of DOJ is that they do the ‘nuclear’ thing: protection, privacy, advocacy and treatment for clients and staff,” said Booth. “Glenwood is really no different than any other states I’ve dealt with in terms of DOJ. It’s fair. Because some of the states I’ve seen are far, far worse. It’s very workable, which is very good.”
Booth’s first two weeks on the job have been a complex juggling act of getting up to speed and managing the care of 300 clients, more than 900 employees and an $80 budget while hitting the ground running.
“It’s been very good but busy so far,” Booth said.
His first day on the job brought an unexpected visit from the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals for a return visit as part of an earlier check-up. “We did okay for being the first day I was here. There were no citations which was great. So I had a chance to work with my management staff right away and an opportunity to work with them (DIA). I also got to go out to the homes, it wasn’t in the fashion I anticipated, but it worked out well.”
Booth said he is still in the process of assessing the acuity of staff, but overall he’s happy with the budget and staffing compared to other facilities he’s seen. He admits, as a former consultant, he didn’t often see facilities at their best when he was called in.
“I’m still in the process of observation, listening, and asking questions,” he said. “I’m trying to ascertain now, based on some reports that DHS received on Glenwood, and going through those things. And I’m going through budget and staffing and those types of things. Compared to a lot of the places I’ve been, I think things are good.”
Booth was involved in closures of state school’s in New Mexico and New York prior to coming to Glenwood. He categorically denies that’s why he was brought to Glenwood, saying “I have not been given any direction to close this place and it’s not been discussed at all.”
What he has been brought in to do is develop a plan for Glenwood that meets the complex demands of modern developmentally disabled treatment. He is a firm believer in working with families and clients as a team to determine best care and teach both.
“My long term plan is my background: I am a teacher,” Booth said. “I’ve been a consultant and gone to some pretty horrible looking places and helped them. My plan this first few months is to get very familiar and teach. Every meeting is a teaching moment. You just teach. Long term, obviously, is to continue the fine work that’s already started here. My eyes have already told me this is not a ‘frying pan’ situation. They’ve done some good stuff.”
Booth pointed to the GRC’s improved nutritional planning, sensory integration and identive communication programs to expand speech and language assistance programs as areas of marked improvement.
“They’ve already done a lot of good stuff. My goal is to continue it and enhance it,” he said.