GLENWOOD, Iowa — The Department of Justice is now roughly three months into an investigation at the Glenwood Resource Center, which is home to about 200 people with severe intellectual disabilities.
“It is really serious business when the DOJ comes to your state and investigates the care you’re supposed to be providing to very vulnerable people,” says State Senator, Joe Bolkcom.
The investigation is focusing on increased deaths at Glenwood, the use of restraints on residents and allegations of sexual arousal studies performed on residents without their consent.
“The situation at Glenwood is appalling,” says State Senator, Herman Quirmbach.
Lawmakers have expressed shock and disgust. Governor Kim Reynolds calls the situation, “unacceptable.
But it’s not unfathomable considering the former Glenwood Superintendent’s history.
Iowa former Department of Human Services Director, Jerry Foxhoven hired Jerry Rea in September of 2017. Prior to that, Rea worked in Kansas, where he was an assistant research professor at the University of Kansas and the Superintendent at the Parsons State Hospital. His area of expertise: Sexual deviant behaviors. He even patented a device to measure sexual arousal among sexual predators and conducted sexual arousal studies on patients with the knowledge and blessing of KU.
In light of the investigation in Iowa, The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is reviewing that research. A spokesperson says, “Our initial review to date suggests proper ethics and approved protocols were in place.”
That research ended when Rea left Kansas and according to former Glenwood employees, started in Iowa, but without the residents’ consent.
A lawsuit filed last week on behalf of several of those former employees, claims Glenwood patients were “guinea pigs… and prior to beginning research, including sexual arousal research on patients, defendants failed to obtain informed consent.”
The lawsuit also alleges “a collaborative effort with individuals at the University of Kansas and Rea’s former employer, Parsons,” as well as collaboration with Foxhoven and Rick Shults, the former Director for Mental Health and Disability Services at the Iowa Department of Human Services, to “seek additional outside funding.”
Foxhoven declined to comment on the lawsuit, but in a December email said, “The allegations of experimental work on patients is shocking. It was certainly not going on to my knowledge while I was at DHS.”
But there were certainly red flags raised more than a year ago.
According to DHS documents obtained by Channel 13, four legislators met with Foxhoven on February 13, 2019 to discuss whistle-blower complaints. Among the topics discussed: The number of individuals served by Glenwood that had passed away, the alleged falsification of records and alleged human experiments.
Senator Mark Costello, who represents the Glenwood area and serves on the Human Resources Committee, was among the lawmakers who met with whistle-blowers.
“That was the first we heard about it,” says Costello. “DHS went down there and talked to people.”
Costello says when Foxhoven reported back, he told lawmakers there really weren’t any problems.
We now know there were problems – problems some legislators say the Governor likely knew about. Senator Joe Bolkcom also serves on the Human Resources Committee.
“I find it hard to believe after all the reporting that’s been done around deaths and around the investigation by the DOJ… that people in the governor’s staff didn’t know about and she didn’t have some knowledge of this.”
The Governor’s office issued a statement saying, “Those legislators are misinformed. Any complaints received by the Department of Human Services were not shared with the Governor until after the DOJ investigation began.”
“At the end of the day, the buck stops with Governor Reynolds and her oversight of this facility,” says Bolkcom, who suspects the lack of oversight will cost Iowa tax payers tens of millions of dollars.
“The legal liability that Governor Reynolds has put the state on the hook for is enormous… It’s just complete negligence and malpractice by this administration overseeing the care of these people.”