Opinion | The transferred patients shouldn’t return until Glenwood implements reform

For the safety and mental well-being of the patients, the eight who transferred from Glenwood should not return until the institution takes initiatives to prevent future abuse.

Ally Pronina, Opinions Columnist

Eight residents will be transferred from Glenwood Resource Center — a facility for people with disabilities — to the Woodward Institution because of trouble recruiting qualified staff. The lack of recruitment is partially due to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into abuse allegations against Glenwood that found patients’ constitutional rights were violated. There should be no transfer back to Glenwood until abuse-prevention measures are implemented, for the safety and mental health of its residents.

Several former and current staffers said Glenwood’s patients were allegedly dying as a result of insufficient medical care in April 2019. There have also been allegations that Glenwood’s facility superintendent ordered that patients be used for unethical experiments, such as sexual arousal research.

As the Des Moines Register reported, the superintendent has since been dismissed. While his firing was justified, there is more Glenwood can and should do to prevent future abuse. Nursing homes can prevent abuse by requiring training in what abuse looks like, installing quality monitoring systems, and creating solid patient-care procedures.

Glenwood can use these ideas to prevent the horrors that occurred within its walls from repeating themselves. Until that is done, Glenwood cannot increase its chances of guaranteeing patient safety. The eight residents who got moved are better off at Woodward.

A 2012 study by Liverpool John Moores University researchers found people with disabilities are more likely to experience violence than those without and people with mental illness are particularly susceptible. This is a heartbreaking statistic which no residence facility should add to. An institution aimed at providing a home for people with disabilities should take whatever measures are necessary to create a safe environment for them — especially after the accusations against Glenwood.

Another reason for Glenwood to implement abuse-prevention measures is that disability can make experiencing abuse even worse than it already is. Imagine not being able to express what you have been through because of a communication disorder. Physical assault is even more awful on someone with a physical impairment or condition causing constant pain.

Abuse has negative consequences for anyone’s mental health — let alone people with diagnosed mental illnesses. Short-term effects of abuse include confusion, fear, hopelessness, and shame. Long-term ones are anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, social withdrawal, and insomnia.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is also common in people who have experienced abuse. Glenwood implementing measures to prevent abuse can prevent its patients from developing severe psychological issues. It can also help the victims emotionally by reminding them, even though they have gone through a horrific experience, someone still cares about them.

Glenwood should also create reform because its victims are human beings who deserve change to be made as a result of what happened to them. The facility’s other patients are also people who deserve safety measures to prevent their basic human rights from being violated.

Some would argue money is an obstacle. However, when we are talking about preventing human rights from being denied, money is never a good excuse.

The mental well-being and safety of the eight patients is not worth sacrificing if Glenwood does not implement stronger measures to prevent abuse.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.