The Iowa Department of Human Services has released a file that shows the department twice looked into the treatment of mentally disabled men living in a house in Atalissa, and decided to take no action each time.
The file was discovered about two weeks ago in the Muscatine office, and shows social workers contemplated taking some action in the 1970’s and then in 1997 , but determined they did not have jurisdiction.
D.H.S. director Gene Gessow says the file is somewhat incomplete. “What we found was a file which I’m not sure that tells me a lot. But to the extent that we look at what we did even 30 or 40 years ago and make sure we’re doing things differently today, that’s a good thing,” Gessow says.
The 21 men were removed from the 100-year-old bunkhouse earlier this month after the state fire marshal ruled the facility was unsafe. The men worked for at a local turkey processing plant through the Texas-based Henry’s Turkey Service.
The report says a social worker complained that the men lost their basic human rights, but was overruled by the district manager who reported good group morale among the men and noted a separate state agency had agreed to monitor the case.
Gessow says he refuses to second guess the decision then and says he prefers to focus on the action taken now. Gessow says, “What appears to be the fact is that people thought and I have no reason to think that they did so inappropriately, that it was not a problem for them then. I don’t believe that would necessarily be the conclusion that we came to today and in fact today we did conclude it would be a problem and we acted very quickly to protect those men and I’m very proud of what we did today.”
Two of the men have returned to the care of relatives in Texas, while 19 others are at a Waterloo care facility.