By Blair Yankey
With unanimous blessing, the Miami County Commissioners are on board with a proposed initiative to help rid the county of bed bugs.
The commissioners on Monday heard from United Way of Miami County Executive Director Debi Wallick, who said a study found that the pests are among the top five health issues in the county.
To combat the problem, a group of Miami County community impact partners are prepared to provide awareness, educational material, home assessments, bed bug mattress covers and mattresses to families who are infested with the tiny, biting insects.
Commissioner Alan Hunt said he believes that the bed bug initiative is a great start in raising awareness and trying to resolve the issue. He said some children go to school with bites on them and don’t realize how they got them.
“I think through the United Way and through the schools we can recognize where some of those problem areas are,” he said. “I’m not sure we can eliminate the problem entirely, but I am hoping we can at least reduce it in some way, shape or form.”
Funding for the initiative will be administered by the United Way of Miami County through a $5,773 grant, and collaborating partners including the Miami County Resource Network, the Miami County System of Care Governance Coalition, Purdue Extension, Miami County Health Department, St. Vincent De Paul, among other organizations.
With OK of the commissioners, Wallick said her next step is to present the initiative to both the county and city council in hopes of gaining their support.
After that, the committee plans to distribute 1,250 flyers and brochures to health providers, hotels, as well as county and city partners and rental properties to help identify bed bugs and treat them.
Local families might not even know they’re homes are infected, Wallick said. She said the pests could appear in a home simply from someone picking up a piece of furniture they bought at a yard sale without realizing it had bed bugs.
“You typically don’t know you’ve got bed bugs until you bring them home,” she said. “It’s something you really got to know how to detect, and be careful and know your surroundings and what to look for.”
Bed bugs are small, flat insects that feed on the blood of sleeping people and animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reddish-brown in color and wingless, they’re about the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny – and can live several months without a blood meal.
Wallick said the committee will work on educating the community on how to declutter and debug their homes in inexpensive ways.
“We’re just taking baby steps, once we get the county and city’s blessings, we’re going to seek other grants to help residents in Miami County address these needs,” she said.