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State Poison Control Center In Jeopardy Of Closing

Lisa Fielding Lisa Fielding
Lisa Fielding is a news anchor and reporter for Newsradio 780. She...
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(CBS) – Every year, the Illinois Poison Control Center handles nearly 82,000 poison related cases. Nearly half of them involve children. Dr. Michael Wahl says each year, they lose more funding.

“We’re actually running a loss right now. We are losing at about a half a million dollars a year. We are looking at closure in 2014 unless we can increase revenue somewhere,” said Wahl.

The IPC receives about $1.3 million in state funding each year but Wahl says that’s not enough.
“It’s not sustainable. We are losing a half a million dollars a year.”

Wahl says the center’s work saves taxpayers more than $50 million annually in unnecessary medical costs and 35,000 unnecessary trips to an emergency department each year.

“We are able to decrease their stay in the hospital by 1-3 days. So it’s estimated we save about 10,000 patient days a year. All told that adds up very easily to $50 million dollars of health care savings.”

The center is staffed by pharmacists, nurses, doctors and poison experts and Wahl says very often, physicians call IPC for help.

“28 percent of our calls originate from hospitals. They come from ER and ICU physicians and nurses who are looking for treatment recommendations for the most severely poisoned patients in their care.”

Wahl is hoping lawmakers will include a two cent surcharge in the cellular phone telecom fee to fund the IPC.

“Two cents per person per month out of the 73 cents that is there that is charged currently. Right now it’s a negotiations process at the state because there are a lot of other interested parties the state itself, the cellular phone companies, all the different 9-1-1 centers that receive money out of that pot. Certainly the interested legislators who are trying to make sure everyone is treated fairly in this process.”

Louisiana has already been down this road. Because of state budget cuts, the Louisiana Poison Center closed on October 31, 1988 but reopened in 1991 because the additional health care costs outweighed the savings.

Wahl says they don’t know what’s going to happen with their level funding of $1.3 million dollars because the budget hasn’t been approved yet. There is less than two weeks remaining in the General Assembly legislative session.