Chicago vs. Bed Bugs

Advocating policy to control the spread of bed bugs in the City of Chicago

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Cincinnati’s Strategic Plan: The Basic Framework

Posted by Jessica on February 1, 2009

If you’re reading this post, then you’re probably aware that our organization– Chicago vs. Bed Bugs– advocates policy to control the spread of bed bug infestations in the City of Chicago.  But you probably have no idea what the heck that means, right?  It’s okay.  Not many people do.

Our organization advocates a plan– a strategic, coordinated effort– to acknowledge, address, and eventually stop the spread of bed bugs in Chicago.  The type of plan we advocate will involve multiple city departments and agencies.  It will be developed, monitored, and enforced by a team of representatives: health department officials, streets and sanitation officials, members of city council and other legislators, expert pest management professionals, local entomologists (bug scientists), and representatives of community organizations.  The type of plan we advocate will involve public education campaigns, landlord and tenant training workshops, amendments to local laws, tracking and surveillance, standardized treatment protocol, mandatory training for pest management companies, and lots more.

Sounds like we’re advocating the impossible, doesn’t it?

Well, Cincinnati, among other cities, is doing it.  And if Cincinnati can do it, Chicago can do it, too.  Right?

In Cincinnati, it all started with a series of town hall meetings, initiated by Ohio State Representative Dale Mallory back in 2007.  Those meetings prompted Representative Mallory to convene an emergency meeting with city, county, and state officials to discuss ways in which the bed bug problem in Cincinnati and Hamilton County could be solved.  The product of that emergency meeting is the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Joint Bed Bug Task Force; the product of the Task Force is The Cincinnati-Hamilton County Joint Bed Bug Task Force Strategic Plan.

The following information was copied directly from the 52-page document that is the Strategic Plan.  It’s been summarized and paraphrased, in some cases, to highlight critical elements and accomplishments– policies and procedures and strategies and plans– that we advocate here in our city.

Joint Bed Bug Task Force Structure

  • Cincinnati Health Department and Hamilton County Public Health
  • The Ohio State University Extension Entomology
  • Stakeholders – people/organizations that are present at the meetings (future inclusion)
  • Interested parties – people/organizations that receive automatic notification and minutes of the meetings (future inclusion)

Joint Bed Bug Task Force Members:

  • Dr. Camille Jones, Assistant Health Commissioner for the Cincinnati Health Department
  • Timothy Ingram, Hamilton County Health Commissioner
  • Dr. Susan Jones, Ohio State University Extension Entomologist
  • Antonio Young, Supervising Sanitarian for the Technical Environmental Service of the City of Cincinnati Health Department
  • Chris Eddy, Hamilton County Director of Environmental Health
  • Thomas Hooper, Sanitarian in the Technical Environmental Service of the City of Cincinnati Health Department
  • Robert Smith, RS
  • Bernadette Watson, Public Information Officer
  • Dr. Mohammad Alam, Director of the Environmental Health Sciences section of the Cincinnati Health Department

What Cincinnati/Hamilton County has accomplished thus far:
*Listed by individual working group

Cost and Resource Needs Working Group:

  • Established list of resources needed for (detailed list provided; refer to pages 13-15 of Strategic Plan):
  • Further development of complaint lines
  • Development of best practices protocols to regulate businesses and practices that may contribute to spreading infestations
  • Further development of surveillance systems
  • Development of standardized education materials
  • Development of policies for disposal of infested furniture
  • Development and monitoring of inspection protocols and procedures
  • Development of creative strategies to encourage responsiveness on the part of owners and occupants of multi-unit buildings that are infested
  • Established list of cost estimates and assumptions, based on the escalation of complaints for three different scenarios:

*The Working Group notes that based on the escalation of complaints seen in New York City, it is reasonable to plan for at least a doubling of complaints.

  • At the same level of complaints as 2007 in Cincinnati and Hamilton County
  • At twice the number of complaints seen in 2007
  • At four times the number of complaints seen in 2007
  • Established a regional total estimate for the cost of the entire Strategic Plan, based on the escalation of complaints at twice the 2007 number and at four times the 2007 number.

Hotline/Database Working Group:

  • Evaluated existing hotline and complaint system and database: City of Cincinnati CSR system.
  • Developed a plan for implementation of a joint city/county bed bug hotline through existing CSR system, using existing software and database applications to recognize, route, process and geographically map bed bug hotline calls.
  • Requested resources to be allocated to accomplish reprogramming of existing CSR system within a specific time frame.
  • Developed a list of issues related to developing bed bug hotline to address and resolve.
  • Determined that Hamilton County Public Health and the Cincinnati Health Department would continue to respond to direct calls and input those calls into the existing CSR system until reprogramming is accomplished and issues are addressed and resolved.

Education Working Group

  • Evaluated current education efforts:
  • Enlisted Dr. Susan Jones, an entomologist with the Ohio State University Extension, to review educational materials produced by both health departments to develop standardized and state-of-the-art educational content to provide to citizens.
  • Planned to develop new educational resources in the following areas:
  • General information
  • Treatments people can apply themselves, and cautions
  • What is an Integrated Pest Management System? (multiple topics covered here; refer to page 18 of Strategic Plan)
  • What to expect if your home is being treated for bed bugs
  • How to adequately prepare your apartment or home prior to pesticide treatment for bed bugs
  • How to evaluate a pest control operator
  • How to find out the complaint history of a pest control operator
  • How to choose a mattress and bed spring encasement
  • How the public can check to see if they are hiring a licensed pest control operator (PCO), and how to check the pesticide complaint records at ODA for PCOs, and how to file a complaint
  • Infested furniture (involves bed bug hotline, refer to page 19)
  • Media/Public Service announcements
  • Scripts for calls to CSR
  • Guidelines for special situations (child who comes to school with bed bugs; clients with bed bugs who enter public buildings or public transportation)
  • Education outreach in schools, community councils, hotels
  • Education about secondary health issues
  • Translations of materials into other languages
  • Low literacy materials
  • Prevention
  • Dissemination of information through multiple venues

Inspection Issues Working Group

  • Developed a summary of inspection issues from the perspective of Task Force entomologists
  • Developed recommendations based on assessment of existing laws governing multi-unit buildings:
  • Health Department and other inspectors participate in field assessments rather than full inspections
  • Field assessment confirms a complaint on the basis of performance of a standardized protocol for field assessment
  • If any sign of bed bug infestation (bed bug seen or fecal stains), a warning letter will be given to the owner/manager saying that action to abate the nuisance must be taken within 5 days
  • At the same time, extensive education materials will be given to both the owner/manager and the occupant, including guidelines for site preparation and information about Integrated Pest Management Programs
  • If the site is a multi-unit building of 4 or more units, at 5 days of follow-up the owner/manager will be required to show evidence that a licensed pest control operator has been hired to do the abatement
  • If no action has been taken to abate the nuisance, the owner/manager will be written a Notice of Violation, and will be subject to further enforcement of action according to city or county codes
  • Due to the complexities and challenges of achieving complete eradication in multi-unit buildings, the Inspection/Issues Working Group and the Joint Bed Bug Task Force as a whole recommends that evidence of continued efforts to eradicate will be accepted in lieu of absolute confirmation of eradication
  • With continued infestation, the pest control operator may be required to document that they are using state-of-the-art practice in their attempt to eradicate the bed bugs
  • Developed a draft flowchart to show how health department field assessments would lead to a letter of warning, then notice of violation, and orders for abatement
  • Committed to development of a standardized protocol for health department complaint follow-up
  • Committed to development of a standardized criteria for “closing out” a bed bug complaint

Transient Accommodations Working Group:

  • Cincinnati Board of Health adopted a Transient Accommodations Regulation (BOH Regulation #00011) that will help Cincinnati Health Department Environmental Health staff evaluate the bed bug infestation situation in the city

And there you have it: policy to control the spread of bed bug infestations in action.  It can be done, my friends.  It’s just a matter of how.

*You can view related articles written by our adviser at New York vs. Bed Bugs here, and by our adviser at here.


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