The final plan for next year’s spending in the Departments of Public Health and Human Services does not include money for reopening the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo. Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, points to the pending lawsuit which has challenged Governor Terry Branstad’s decision to close the home this past January.
“Language in the bill has a group meeting and collecting information and coming to us next year with recommendations,” Heaton said this afternoon. “…If the court case comes down in favor of the facility, we’ll have to have some discussion about that next year.”
House Democratic Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown is one of five legislators who signed onto that lawsuit, arguing the state needs to keep the facility open to provide services to the most troubled teenage girls in the state.
“I don’t think we’re adequately addressing those issues,” Smith said this afternoon.
The governor closed the Iowa Juvenile Home after allegations surfaced that its teenage residents were being mistreated, with a few young women kept in solitary confinement for months. Branstad has vowed to veto any attempt by legislators to reopen the home, however the legislature has set aside about half a million dollars to continue basic maintenance of the facility.
The budget bill that has cleared the House and Senate requires tracking of former Iowa Juvenile Home residents who were either sent back home or transferred to private facilities. Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, said a newly elected General Assembly will be able to look at the situation with “different eyes” in 2015.
“We’ll be able to see whether or not these girls were placed in an appropriate provider placement, treatment center,” Hatch said early this evening.
However, Hatch is not seeking reelection to the senate. He’s running for governor and he’s criticized Governor Branstad’s decision to close the home for delinquent teenage girls. Branstad says private facilities are better able to care for the troubled teens.