RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – How did a treatment center for the mentally ill get bedbugs? A van driver's account led 12 on Your Side to an assisted living facility in South Richmond.
We don't know for sure where the bedbugs originated but, my inquiries resulted in a change. The van driver who contacted me following one of my earlier reports says bedbugs crawled off clients being transported from one facility to the other.
DRIVER: "I noticed bugs crawling under the seat, all over the back of the seat."
DIANE: "How did the bugs get on the van?"
DRIVER: "Directly from off of the clients that I was picking up."
The van driver gives a vivid account beginning with patients picked up from an assisted living facility on Forest Hill Avenue in South Richmond... Jones and Jones LLC.
DRIVER: "There's so many of them it's visible when they get on the van."
DIANE: "You could see the bugs on the people as they walk past you?"
DRIVER: "No exaggeration."
The driver who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation says bedbug complaints were made to "New Freedom Transportation".
"What's going to be done about the bugs so I don't have to worry about being bit? We can't stop picking up the people. You are going to have to pick up the people," he said.
The van driver believes bedbugs hitched rides between the two facilities, "Jones and Jones" Assisted Living and the H.U.F. Center where clients spent the day.
"Imagine their living circumstances," he said.
We went to the assisted living facility. No one would talk on camera but we did see a couch and pillows wrapped in plastic. That's a way to battle bedbugs. The home's administrator, Mable Jones would only speak off camera.
Jones tells me she stopped using the New Freedom Transportation vans after the bedbug allegation.
She also says people using the H.U.F. center come from several different facilities, and her residents are not the only people New Freedom Transports. She says she has been proactive and cares deeply for her residents.
The home's administrator says some residents still attend the HUF Center but she transports them in personal vehicles now. New Freedom Transportation has not returned my calls.
But the H.U.F. Center reached out to 12 on Your Side today for a second opportunity to respond to allegations of bedbugs at the adult day center for people in psychiatric distress.
I sat down with Executive Director Randy Wilson who says the HUF Center is bedbug free. He showed us their exterminator's report from a few days ago. He says they are dedicated to a safe environment and have gotten rid of all cloth furniture and now have tile flooring.
"This is an issue that's being addressed everywhere. It is our responsibility as a business to make sure we are putting the appropriate procedures in place to prevent any of those issues from occurring in our facility," Wilson said.
Both businesses say they immediately contacted the health department and licensing at the first complaint of bedbugs.