GLENWOOD, Iowa. (KMTV) — Sybil Finken is a mother whose son, Seth, needs care 24/7. Whether it's food or medications, he cannot do anything without help.
"Seth is deaf and blind and in a wheelchair. He's non-communicative. He had meningitis as a baby and was left severely damaged, so he needs...this is really hard," Finken said.
Seth has been staying at the Glenwood Resource Center (GRC) since the 1980s. Finken raised serious concerns after the Department of Justice's investigation into the facility found some patients' rights had been violated. But Finken believes shutting it down is not the answer.
"The last time we met with the leadership of the Department of Human Services and leadership at GRC they said there were no plans to close the facility, but it changed rapidly," Finken said.
The DOJ conducted a two-part investigation that focused on a three-year time span: 2017 to 2020. The DOJ report found the facility ignored requests for necessary care and performed human experiments.
"We just needed to get rid of the administration. The leadership needed to be changed and it's a hard job," Finken said.
State leaders say the facility faces significant challenges such as a lack of staffing. The plan is to transition residents into community placements (group homes within communities) or the Woodward Resource Center, which is an almost two-and-a-half-hour drive from Glenwood.
Finken worries the state is far from ready to care for everyone.
"We have a clientele of very severely handicapped people and the community doesn't have the know-how to take care of them," Finken said.
Still, Finken confides her biggest fear: what will become of her son?
"I knew he was going to get bigger, never going to get better, just going to get bigger. One person can't do that," Finken said.
Right now, there are 152 residents at the Glenwood facility. The state promises to work with residents and their families to make sure the transition from Glenwood to a new home goes smoothly.
Mayor Ron Kohn says the property will become community property and several organizations will be eligible to buy it to convert to businesses or homes. He is not yet sure what the state standards are for buying it.
There are about 600 employees working at the GRC. Kohn says the state has employment training and resources and expects that it will help employees find opportunities after the closure. He says nearly everyone in the town is affected in some way.
"It's been a good resource for many people — a means of a good occupation and a chance to serve the people that are up there."