The Queens Chronicle reports this week about a bed bug infestation affecting developmentally disabled residents and staff at a Center for Family Support home in Ozone Park, Queens. The Chronicle tells the story of Kiasha Artis-Priester, who works in the residence, and says it has had bed bugs for six months.
The direct care counselor is responsible for feeding, entertaining and looking after six developmentally disabled individuals at a Center for Family Support residence in Ozone Park. Aside from dealing with what she calls “typical problems” like not enough heat, short staffing and a lack of hot water and food at times, she says the house has been infested with bedbugs for the past six months and the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities isn’t doing enough to help.
“From Thursday until Sunday the people living there stayed at a hotel, but they sent them back home before they had even given the house three treatments,”
Artis-Priester said. “Taking the individuals out of their room is a cosmetic fix.”
The worker, who holds a second job as a paraprofessional for the New York City Department of Education, said she first felt the bedbug bites while sitting in a chair at the residence. Since then, she and her colleagues have also seen the parasitic insects — which can grow to lengths of up to 5 millimeters — as recently as last Thursday, she said, when the remote control was blanketed with them.
It is tragic to think of the developmentally disabled residents living under these conditions.
The residents were apparently relocated to a hotel in Bayside, Queens for three days during treatment. We can only hope that the proper precautions were taken to prevent bed bugs being spread to that hotel.
In some other recent stories, unions have supported workers in calling for their workplaces to be properly treated for bed bugs. In this case, the employees have no union to support them. And the residents appear to have no one to fight for them except the staff who care for them.
Anyone battling bed bugs in a group residence or shelter — or anyone wishing to prevent an infestation in such a setting — should consult the wonderful Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Bed Bugs in Shelters and Group Living Facilities from Cornell/New York State IPM.
We’re hearing increasing numbers of stories about bed bugs in the workplace. In the last ten days, news stories have also covered bed bug infestations in a school in Indiana and the Nassau County (Long Island) Department of Health. We also heard directly from employee at the Philadelphia IRS building about an infestation there which has not yet hit the mainstream news.