Friday, March 23, 2012

Texas Poison Control Centers — Not Just For Kids

Poison control centers are for everyone. In addition to parents and babysitters who call (800)222-1222 when young children have become exposed to toxic substances, seniors also call when they fear they may have made an error in taking their medicine. And doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and emergency department staff across the nation place 1,400 calls daily to the Poison Help number for treatment advice on drug- or poison-related cases. Poison centers are also a highly cost-effective source of health care. For every dollar spent on poison centers, $7 is saved in unnecessary health care costs. On average, 70 percent of callers are able to be treated at home, thus avoiding the far more costly hospital or doctor’s office visits.

Unfortunately, federal and state budget cuts reduced funding for local poison control centers by 36 percent and 18 percent, respectively. Without proper funding, local Texas poison control centers may have to begin closing, says Sharilyn K. Stanley, MD, poison program coordinator for the Commission on State Emergency Communications. Poison control centers provide outreach to their communities, taking proactive steps to reduce both the number and severity of poison exposures. It is estimated that poison center services, in addition to saving lives, are three times as cost-effective as child safety seats, bicycle helmets, and smoke detectors and are as cost-effective as childhood immunizations.

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