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Two Cents For Poison Hotline?


The Illinois Poison Center has been taking calls from worried parents for sixty years. Now it’s asking the public to make an emergency call on its behalf.  

Back before childproof containers and internet medical advice, there was a huge need for poison hotlines. Illinois used to have more than 100 of the phone lines staffed by doctors, nurses, and pharmacists who could give life-saving advice. Now, there’s one: the Chicago-based Illinois Poison Center. According to its medical director Michael Wahl, his 22 staffers take 82-thousand calls a year. If funding dries up, people with possible poisoning emergencies will have to call 911…where they can’t offer advice, just an ambulance.      

Wahl says the Poison Center can do something 911 can't:

"It's a service that saves taxpayers $50-million a year in unnecessary health care spending."

Wahl says 90% of the calls can be handled over the phone, with the issue handled on-site using simple first aid instructions.The other ten percent need medical attention, and hotline personnel can share information with other emergency workers.                                                                                                                                                           

Wahl says the Illinois Poison Center is looking for more secure funding than what it receives from the General Assembly’s general fund. He’s asking the public to urge lawmakers to approve a two-cent monthly surcharge on cell phones during telecom reauthorization. Wahl says center has lost about 25% of its funding over the past few years, and will have to make more cuts, or even close, if it can’t come up with a more stable funding source. 

Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.