Poison control centers narrowly escaped losing almost all federal funding this year and their appropriations are down, despite evidence that they keep people out of emergency rooms, writes Maryn McKenna, an independent journalist and AHCJ board member.
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McKenna cites statistics showing that, when poison control centers’ budgets are cut, hospital visits to treat poisonings increase. “In 2004, the Institute of Medicine estimated that every dollar of public funding spent on a poison control center saves $10 that would otherwise have been spent on health care.”
The piece, in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, is packed with facts about the 57 centers in the United States, including:
- Poisoning is the second most common cause of injury deaths in the United States
- About 15 percent of calls to poison control centers come from emergency departments, hospitals, and office practices.
- Poison centers increasingly are providing advice for emergency personnel encountering toxicities from prescription drug abuse.
McKenna spoke to a Harvard professor of pediatrics who called budget cuts to poison control centers “the definition of ‘penny-wise, pound-foolish.’”
What’s happening at the poison control center in your area? Is it experiencing budgetary woes? How are staff coping with that? How is that affecting the community and area hospitals?