Toronto Public Health reported yesterday that it has recorded a near 1,000% increase in bed bug infestation calls and they aren’t just from flophouses.
The blood-sucking bugs have prompted 1,444 calls to public health officials for help — up from 147 calls in 2006 — in the first seven months of this year.
And that’s seven months in to this year; I wonder how much higher that percentage will have grown by the end of this year.
However, with any luck, and a lot of work, the tide may be turning in Toronto, because public officials have ideas about ways to reduce the spread of bed bugs, and fight current infestations. And they’re doing their best to implement them.
The Toronto Board of Health is meeting Monday and will be hearing the Bed Bug Project Update including funding requests. As the Sun reports,
A report before the board of health — Toronto Bed Bug Project Update — is calling for $75,000 in funding to help elderly or vulnerable people receive bed bug treatment.
“We have ongoing concern regarding the ability of vulnerable residents to undergo the necessary treatment,” said city Councillor Paula Fletcher, a member of the health board.
“Increased education, increased funding for preparation and treatment and increased control mechanisms are required to bring the bed bug problem in Toronto to heel.”
There are also recommendations on the table to increase the city’s “Bug and Scrub” program, a provincially funded plan. “Bed Bug Project is a good working model to tackle these pests … city officials, community agencies, landlords, and the pest control industry working together,” said Rima Zavys, director of homelessness and housing help services at WoodGreen Community Services.
And working together is key.
We have heard about Bug and Scrub before and are excited the project may be expanded. Bug and Scrub pays people living in a shelter a very decent wage and trains them to do bed bug treatments; the company charges a sliding scale fee to those needing bed bug treatment.
Toronto residents can find out about hiring Bug and Scrub here.
Also, we have often called for assistance to those who cannot pay for bed bug treatment or who cannot complete (nor pay someone else to complete) the preparations required before treatment. We’re happy to see in the agenda for Monday’s meeting (see this PDF, page 3) that the Medical Officer of Health is calling on the Toronto City Council to
… approve a request for one time emergency funding of $75,000 gross and net in the Toronto Public Health 2009 Operating Budget to assist vulnerable adults who do not qualify for Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) support, to purchase services to prepare their residences for bed bug pesticide treatment…
This help in with preparations for bed bug treatment is sorely needed by the elderly, persons with disabilities, and others, everywhere. But such help is so rare. (One rare example: San Francisco City Assessor Chris Daley got $63,000 in the 2007 budget to help low-income people with bed bugs pay for laundry and the freezing of possessions. It’s discussed here if you scroll way down.)
You can read much more about the Toronto Bed Bug Project on New York vs. Bed Bugs, where Renee has laid out a detailed analysis and links to lots more of the juicy stuff.
Toronto Public Health’s Bed Bugs page.
Thanks to BugsinTO and LJ for tipping me off to the Toronto Sun article!
… that’s just one-time funding, and city officials are predicting that far more will be called for when a special committee tackling the city’s bedbug problem reports next spring.
“I don’t want to guess, but it’ll be a lot more than $75,000,” Councillor John Filion, who chairs the Toronto Board of Health, said yesterday.
The Toronto Sun reports today that
Public Health also decided to expand the city’s “bug and scrub” program, which helps residents on either Ontario Works or disability move their furniture and clean their apartments. It also struck a team of three board members to work with service agencies to decide what more Public Health can do to curb bed bugs in the city.
The Sun also notes that many do not think enough is being done:
But according to some social service providers, the city’s response to what they call a “health hazard” is not enough.
Sandra Van, of South Etobicoke’s LAMP Community Health Care, said her organization pulled out of the city’s bed bug steering committee when it appeared no one was taking the issue seriously enough.
“A comprehensive approach with adequate resources needs to be made immediately,” she said, noting she thinks bed bugs should be declared a health hazard. “This report, including the suggested future actions, do not adequately address the problem.”
Even some city councillors aren’t completely satisfied.
“It’s basically an excuses report,” charged Councillor Howard Moscoe, who told the board he represents one of the city’s most infected buildings. In a letter to the board, he urged it to declare the bugs a “health hazard”.