KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Bedbugs have infested an assisted-living home for the mentally ill in Kansas City and the manager said he's doing all he can to rid the building of the tiny blood-sucking insects.
Rockhill Manor is the first assisted-living facility in the state to be cited by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services for bedbugs. The owners submitted a plan of correction to the state on Friday, after being issued a statement of deficiency from the state on Jan. 5.
Rockhill, which has 108 residents, could be fined if managers can't eradicate the infestation, spokeswoman Jacqueline Lapine said.
The facility's administrators did not notify the residents' guardians about the infestation, said Rebbecca Lake Wood, a Jackson County public administrator who is guardian to 40 people living at Rockhill Manor. She said she learned of the problem only after one of her wards begged her to be moved to another residence.
"Let me ask you: Would you want to sleep in a place crawling with these things? Imagine if you were mentally ill," Lake Wood said. "It's not fair for them to have to deal with that, too."
One resident, Bobby Wiley Jr., showed a Star reporter the welts on his arms and said his back was also covered with bites.
"I'm afraid to sleep at night," said Wiley. "I check my bed, but it don't make no difference. I still get bit."
Barker defended his efforts to fix the problem, saying it's difficult to eradicate the problem because residents are free to come and go, meaning they can bring the bugs into the facility in their clothes and other items.
"It's a constant struggle," Barker said. "People have mental illness here. People bring clothes in off the street or stuff they find. We had one client who had 25 pairs of pants. We said he could have four pairs, and we put the rest downstairs, double-bagging them. That's an example of where the bugs can hide."
Barker hired an exterminator for advice. Mattresses have been cleaned and encased in zippered bags. Cracks in the floor were caulked and sealed. Residents are no longer allowed to do their own laundry. All clothes, stuffed animals and other personal items were washed and put into dryers.
Bed headboards were taken down because "it was another place where the bugs liked to hide," Barker said. "We double-bagged some paintings in the rooms because bugs were crawling around the frame."
The state will drop make a surprise inspection of Rockhill Manor in the next few months. If the bedbug problem persists, fines of up to $1,000 a day could be levied.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kansascity.com