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Without New Funding Source, State Poison Hotline Set To End May 31

Chris Martinez Chris Martinez
Chris Martinez is a general assignment reporter for CBS 2...
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(CBS) – It’s a service that saves lives every day. But soon it could be gone.

The Illinois Poison Center is on the verge of shutting its doors permanently.

CBS 2’s Chris Martinez has more on the effort to save it.

More than 80,000 times a year, staffers answer the call when parents report their child has ingested a potentially dangerous substance.

Weeks from today, the center may be just a memory.

For several years, the organization that runs a statewide hotline has seen its funding slashed, prompting major cutbacks in services and staff.

“Even with all those cuts we’re running at a half million dollar loss,” Dr. Carol DesLauriers says. “We just can’t cut anymore.”

There isn’t enough to stay open.

“We have to provide 9- day notice if we’re going to close,” DesLauriers says.

It’s a grim outlook, save one final plan. A last-ditch effort would take money from an existing cell phone surcharge: 2 cents per customer.

It’s now up to state lawmakers to push that plan through. And if they don’t by the end of May, this life-saving service ends.

“If we go away, that’s going to be patient harm and it’s going to be unnecessary health care dollars spent,” DesLauriers says.

Of those 80,000 calls the hotline gets a year, about half are calls for sick kids.

If lawmakers don’t act by May 31, the center will shut down.

Illinois, which was the first state to have a poison center, will become the only state without one.