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DOJ finds State of Iowa unnecessarily segregates people with intellectual disabilities in State Resource Centers

Two women, one of them disabled, making rhythm exercises

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division announced that it has concluded an investigation into whether the State of Iowa subjects residents of Glenwood and Woodward Resource Centers, two state-run institutions for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD) in Glenwood and Woodward, Iowa, respectively, to unnecessary institutionalization in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Justice Department determined that there is reasonable cause to believe Iowa fails to provide services to residents of the Resource Centers, or those at serious risk of institutionalization, in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. Iowa’s system of care for people with IDD is heavily biased toward institutions. Critical services and support that would allow Resource Center residents to live in their own homes and communities, such as behavioral, crisis and physical health supports, are often unavailable outside the Resource Centers. Iowa also fails to provide Resource Center residents and their guardians with sufficient information about community options. Consequently, many Resource Center residents who could receive, and do not oppose the receipt of, services in the community are needlessly segregated in institutions.

“People with disabilities should not be unlawfully isolated and unreasonably denied access to the community-based services they need,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will actively defend the rights of individuals with disabilities to participate fully in community life.”

The department’s investigation was conducted under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) and Title II of the ADA. Consistent with CRIPA’s statutory requirements and Title II’s regulations, the department provided the state with a written notice setting out the department’s conclusions and the supporting facts. The department also notified the state of the minimum remedial measures necessary to address the alleged violations.

The department’s investigation involved extensive review and analysis of documents; interviews of staff and management at the Resource Centers, Iowa’s Department of Human Services, and stakeholders; and observation of support planning meetings. The department also conducted tours of Glenwood Resource Center (Glenwood).

This announcement concludes the second, and final, phase of the department’s investigation. The department initiated the investigation in November 2019. The first phase was conducted by the Civil Rights Division and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa and focused on conditions at Glenwood. On Dec. 22, 2020, the department notified the State that the department had reasonable cause to believe that these conditions violate the federal rights of the people living there and that these violations are pursuant to a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

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