Keep yourself informed about disability rights and disability rights issues
in Iowa and across the country with our DRI News.
For more information, you can subscribe to our email newsletter
on the homepage under the Newsletter heading.
Summer 2019 Internships
Winter 2018 Newsletter
Click the links below to read full newsletter articles
Summer 2018 Newsletter
Winter 2017 Newsletter
DRI is proud to sponsor blog Disabled Country.In the spirit of the incredible work of Neil Marcus, Disabled Country seeks to create a platform for disabled perspectives. Presented by Disability Rights Iowa, Disabled Country celebrates the disabled experience and condemns the strongest terms all those who propagate the poisons of ableism and prejudice. We believe that the disabled experience brings with it a rich cultural identity, and a healthy community. For all those eager to celebrate that identity, and explore the many issues facing people with disabilities, welcome to Disabled Country.
Visit the website at https://www.disabledcountry.com.
Free Elder Law Webinar Series: Dates and Subjects
- April 5, 2018 Planning to Protect Your Future: Powers of Attorney, Healthcare
Directives and Other Tools
Andrew Cederdahl, Attorney at Law, Iowa Legal Aid’s Elder Justice Fellow
- April 26, 2018 Family Law Issues for Older Adults: Grandparents Rights, Common Law Marriage and More Angela Broughton-Romain, Attorney at Law, Iowa Legal Aid’s Legal Hotline for Older Iowans
- May 17, 2018 Medicaid Eligibility for Nursing Home and In-Home Services
Scott Hartsook, Attorney at Law, Iowa Legal Aid’s Legal Hotline for Older
- June 7, 2018 Protecting Yourself from Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation
Andrew Cederdahl, Attorney at Law, Iowa Legal Aid’s Elder Justice Fellow
- June 28, 2018 The Golden Years and Debt: Surviving on a Fixed Income
Fred Nelson, Attorney at Law, Iowa Legal Aid’s Legal Hotline for Older Iowans
Sponsored by Iowa Legal Aid’s Legal Hotline for Older Iowans.
Funded in part with grants from the Prairie Meadows Racetrack and
Casino, Equal Justice Works, and Iowa’s Lawyer Trust Account
Commission. For details, call 1-800-992-8161, or 282-8161 in Des
Moines, or email email@example.com
#IamMedicaidIowa Join Us!
Many lawmakers and citizens see dollar signs rather than faces when considering Medicaid Managed Care issues in Iowa. Help Disability Rights Iowa show lawmakers that Iowans in the Medicaid Managed Care system are just like them. They want to live in their homes in their communities rather than going to an institution. However, they can’t do so without the state sufficiently funding their services.
DRI wants Iowa lawmakers to see faces, not just numbers. We will be sharing your photos and stories with legislators during the 2018 session. Join the #IamMedicaidIowa movement and share your story.
- Print the #IamMedicaidIowa Instructions and Printable Sign and have your picture taken holding the sign.
- Copy and paste the prepared statement listed below that most closely resembles your relation to Medicaid into an email. Attach your picture and if you choose, please share your own story regarding Medicaid. Send everything to IamMedicaid@driowa.org.
- Post the picture and statement on all your social media accounts and encourage others to join! Don’t forget to tag DRI on Facebook at @disabilityrightsiowa.org. Share this document with others and ask them to join the campaign.
#IamMedicaidIowa. Many lawmakers and citizens see dollar signs rather than my face. Just like you, I want to live in my home in my community, but I need the state to sufficiently fund my services. Please remember my face as you make decisions about Medicaid Managed Care.
#IamMedicaidIowa. Many lawmakers and citizens see dollar signs rather than my face. I am a caregiver for a loved one who wants to live at home in the community rather than going to an institution. However, my loved one needs the state to sufficiently fund their services. Please remember my face and my family as you make decisions about Medicaid Managed Care.
#IamMedicaidIowa. I am a Medicaid provider and my clients want to remain in their homes in their communities rather than going to an institution. However, my clients need the state to sufficiently fund their services. Please remember my face and my clients as you make decisions about Medicaid Managed Care.
#IamMedicaidIowa. I am an Iowa taxpayer and I want my tax dollars to support my friends and neighbors staying in their homes and communities rather than going to an institution. However, my community members need the state to sufficiently fund their services. Please remember my face and my friends and neighbors as you make decisions about Medicaid Managed Care.
By sending in this photo, I consent (or as the guardian or legal representative of the individual in the photo) to Disability Rights Iowa posting my picture on its Facebook page and website, sending my photo to Iowa officials and policy-makers and sharing it on Twitter and Instagram. I understand that my contact information will not be shared on Facebook, the DRI website, Twitter, Instagram or on any e-mails sent to state officials and legislators.
____Yes, please add me to the Disability Rights Iowa mailing list so that I can get more information about protecting the rights of Iowans with disabilities and mental illness.
____No, please do not add me to the Disability Rights Iowa mailing list. I get my information about the rights of Iowans with disabilities in other ways.
IOWA ‘SCHOOL’ RELIES ON SOLITARY, RESTRAINTS, DANGEROUS DRUGS, INSTEAD OF GIVING BOYS NEEDED MENTAL HEALTH CARE, LAWSUIT ALLEGES
Monday, November 27, 2017
Nathan Kirstein, 515-278-2502 x25, firstname.lastname@example.org (Iowa media)
Wende Gozan Brown, 646-216-3329, email@example.com (national media)
(Des Moines, Iowa)—State officials are knowingly employing unconstitutional and illegal practices at the Boys State Training School in Eldora, Iowa, causing lasting harm to youth with significant mental illnesses, according to a federal class action lawsuit filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. The lawsuit names as defendants Jerry Foxhoven, director of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS); Richard Shults, administrator of the Division of Mental Health and Disability Services; and Mark Day, superintendent of the Boys State Training School.
The complaint paints a grim picture of a facility that has no full-time licensed mental health professionals on staff. Instead of providing necessary mental health treatment, workers at Eldora, as it is known, rely heavily on potentially harmful psychotropic medications administered without appropriate oversight or consent—as well as solitary confinement and a full-body mechanical restraint—to control youth who typically have not been convicted of any crime. Two non-profit legal organizations, Disability Rights Iowa (DRI) and Children’s Rights (CR), are seeking a court order to prevent policies and practices that violate their constitutional and federal statutory rights.
CR and DRI assert that these boys, aged 12 to 19, do not receive the mental health treatment needed to fulfill the facility’s mission of providing “a program which focuses on appropriate developmental skills, treatment, placements and rehabilitation.” For example, children with mental illnesses have been placed in solitary confinement for raising their voices, arguing with other children, talking while taking a shower and failing to clean up.
The complaint outlines the experiences of several named plaintiffs:
- R., 16, who needs intensive therapy with a licensed practitioner, but instead is receiving brief telephonic “sessions” that don’t follow recommendations for his therapeutic needs. He has been given at least six psychotropic medications since June 2016, without appropriate controls or consent. He has been placed on suicide watch at least 27 times, usually after tying clothing around his neck and threatening to kill himself. He was restrained for 77.53 hours in a seven-month period—including 67 hours in the full body restraint, often as punishment for self-harming behaviors.
- S., 16, has been diagnosed with a number of conditions and has reported auditory hallucinations. He began exhibiting suicidal ideations and behaviors at Eldora, but is consistently denied access to needed mental health services and instead is given psychotropic medications for treatment. J.S. has been placed on suicide watch several times after harming himself while in solitary confinement. During a period of 11 months, J.S. was placed in solitary 81 times for a total of over 580 hours, and he was subject to restraints 22 times in 10 of those months.
- P., 16, has multiple psychiatric diagnoses and a history of depression and suicidal ideation. He also has several severe medical conditions that make his mental health treatment more complex. Despite his mother advocating for him, he is consistently denied therapies that may prove effective. He suffers severe side effects from the psychotropics he routinely receives, including constantly licking his lips, which his mother worries is a symptom of dyskinesia.
“The issues raised in the lawsuit will come as no surprise to the state,” added Nathan Kirstein, attorney with Disability Rights Iowa. “Officials have had multiple opportunities to make changes, and yet they have brushed them aside as though these kids don’t count. The state is required to act as parent, but no responsible parent would treat a child as Eldora does. These youth are there for rehabilitation and treatment—but they receive the exact opposite, and the facility’s harmful tactics are destroying lives.”
“Children with mental health needs should not be thrown in solitary confinement as punishment, or silenced with dangerous medications without proper oversight,” said Harry Frischer, lead counsel at Children’s Rights. “They require tailored psychological and therapeutic supports to have a real chance of growing into fully integrated, productive members of the community. The tactics employed at Eldora are archaic and run counter to the national and professional consensus in the treatment of children in juvenile detention facilities. They are also flat-out harmful and unlawful.”
The lawsuit is being brought on behalf of all children confined to the Boys State Training School now or in the future and who have significant mental illnesses. CR and DRI assert violations of Plaintiffs’ right to substantive due process as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; their right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, as guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; and their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
# # #
Iowa DHS again fails to protect Iowa’s youth
August 7, 2017 -Disability Rights Iowa released a report today regarding the failure of the Iowa Department of Human Services to provide appropriate mental health treatment to the youth at the Boys State Training School in Eldora, Iowa.
Disability Rights Iowa (DRI) is a non-profit law center, which has been authorized by Congress to protect and advocate for the rights of Iowans with disabilities and mental illness. Over the past year, DRI has intensively investigated the adequacy of mental health services for youth placed at the Boys State Training School (BSTS), which is a secure juvenile justice facility located in Eldora, Iowa. BSTS is operated by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS). Approximately 120 youth live there. About two-thirds of them have been diagnosed as having a serious mental illness and are on psychotropic medications.
DRI’s key findings of DRI’s report – entitled “Unlicensed and Unlawful: The Failure to Ensure Safe and Evidence-Based Treatment at the Boys State Training School” are as follows:
- The BSTS is not providing evidence-based mental health services to residents besides medication management. This is a violation of the statutory mission of the BSTS and a violation of the constitutional rights of the residents at BSTS.
- There is an overreliance on the use of restraint and seclusion, which disproportionately affects African American youth and youth with disabilities.
- There are no regulations that govern the use of restraint and seclusion and provisions of mental health care and education at the BSTS. This is an anomaly in the juvenile justice system in Iowa.
- There is no independent State licensure and oversight of the BSTS. This is an anomaly in the juvenile justice system in Iowa.
DRI recommends several forms of relief for the residents at the BSTS, which include but are not limited to, the following:
- Transfer of all youth with mental illness to appropriate placements where appropriate mental health services can be provided, including adding to Iowa’s continuum of care if there are no services that can currently be provided for the youth who are transferred.
- Implement all recommendations found in the mental health services audit at the BSTS.
- Provide additional training to staff in multiple areas of need identified in this report and implement data collecting and reporting procedures for the reduction of restraint and seclusion and the reduction of the disproportionate punishment of African American youth.
- Eliminate the use of room confinement for minor rule violations and the use of the “wrap”.
- Provide State regulations for the BSTS that adhere to Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) Juvenile Detention Standards.
- Provide licensure and oversight by an independent State entity.
DRI is open and will to meet with state officials to discuss its findings and recommendations. However, DRI will take all appropriate and necessary action, up to and including filing a lawsuit in federal court against the Governor, the DHS Director and other state officials, if they do not remedy the problems that DRI has identified in this report and taken appropriate corrective action.
The funding source for this report was the Federal Victims of Crime Assistance Act Funds.
Press Contact: Nathan Kirstein, J.D.,
A Response to Iowa Girls Justice Initiative Recommendations
A Response to Iowa Girls Justice Initiative Recommendations: “Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Female Offenders: Service and System Recommendations for Iowa” dated February 2017. (See https://humanrights.iowa.gov/cjjp/females-and-juvenile-justice-0/iowa-girls-justice-initiative). The IGJI recommendations begin by noting that serious, violent, and chronic juvenile female offenders are at the center of a system and service crisis in juvenile justice in Iowa. The authors of this report offer a different way to look at this “crisis”. We do not believe this “crisis” is caused by the lack of a locked or staff-secure facility for “Serious, Chronic, and Violent” girls in Iowa, as the IGJI recommendations would have you believe. Rather, we believe the “crisis” is caused by a lack of female-responsive, culturally competent, trauma-informed, treatment-oriented, developmentally appropriate services for girls across the continuum of services for ALL girls involved with the juvenile justice system.
The authors of this response recommend that one way out of this “crisis” is to provide a level of community-based services here in Iowa that is not currently a part of Iowa’s juvenile justice continuum. One such organization that provides such services would be Youth Advocacy Programs (YAP). They serve similarly situated youth quite successfully in other states that have used this organization as an alternative to the use of locked facilities. If these girls cannot be served by these community-based services at home, then the authors recommend the use of these community-based services in a therapeutic foster home or regionally based group home for the youth. These services should be properly funded by the State of Iowa.
In Jail and Out of Options: An Examination of the Systemic Issues affecting the Housing and Treatment of Iowans with Mental Illness in County Jails.
DRI is proud to release “In Jail and Out of Options: An Examination of the Systemic Issues affecting the Housing and Treatment of Iowans with Mental Illness in County Jails.” This report, comprised of three parts, describes how individuals with mental illness have come to end up in county jails, how they are treated while they are incarcerated in these facilities, and what community stakeholders around Iowa are doing to combat this problem.
DRI files amicus (friend-of-the-court brief with the Iowa Supreme Court
On August 31st, 2016 DRI filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief with the Iowa Supreme Court in support of an employee with mental illness. The case is about licensed mental health professionals, who worked for Magellan, directing hatred and ridicule towards another coworker who was suffering from major depression, the same type of serious mental illnesses for which their member-patients needed their help. They created a hostile environment when she tried to return to work after taking medical leave to cope with and recover from her depression. The brief deals with the stigma of mental illness in the workplace and society at large.
Click here for the Full Amicus brief.
DRI is now on YouTube
Disability Rights IOWA (DRI) now has a YouTube channel, featuring brief Q&A videos that will answer many of the questions that Social Security beneficiaries have about returning to work and benefits planning.
Check out our YouTube channel here!