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Lawmaker Calls For State Bedbug Policy

A Rutland lawmaker says the state needs a more comprehensive approach for dealing with bedbugs in buildings used for state services.

To that end, the House Human Services Committee will hear testimony on Wednesday from Rutland foster parents who had to move from their home because of an allegedly botched attempt to exterminate the pests.

Patricia and Neil Whitney say a foster child brought bedbugs into their home in 2012. The couple believes the state knew the risk of infestation and should have had a plan in place to deal with the problem.

West Rutland Representative Tom Burditt agrees. Burditt’s a member of the House Committee on Human Services, and he says with reports of bedbugs on the rise, state services involving public housing and foster care need to be protected. “I just came to realize that the state needs some kind of policy around this.”

To do that, Burditt thinks Vermont should examine what other states have done regarding bedbugs as well seek out input from experts at the state Agency of Agriculture.

“The conversation needs to start,” said Burditt. “It was started in ’09, five years ago and never continued and I think it needs to be rekindled and get things moving.”

Burditt is alluding to a large bedbug infestation in a low-income apartment complex in St. Johnsbury. At the time, news accounts reported efforts by various state agencies to work on developing a comprehensive action plan for the problem.

In Neal and Patricia Whitney’s case, an exterminator hired by the state allegedly used a banned pesticide – and they had to move out of their home as a result.

Last summer, Rutland attorney Karl Anderson, who’s representing the Whitneys, asked officials with the Department for Children and Families what, if any, policy the state had developed for bedbugs.

“And they advised that there was no such policy as of August 2013, there still was no policy which struck me as very puzzling since they had had these bedbug brainstorming sessions several years prior,” said Anderson.

Despite repeated attempts, no one from the state Agency of Human Services would confirm or deny if the state has a formal policy regarding bedbugs, or what if any progress was made after the 2009 infestation in St. Johnsbury.

Officials with the Health Department said they make information and recommendations concerning bedbugs available to the public on the state’s website.