The Illinois Poison Center has much to be thankful for.
The IPC is very grateful for the support that readers of our blog, Facebook page members, educators, volunteers, Twitter followers, students, callers and other partners have provided over the past several months. This spring, close to 5,000 e-mails were sent to legislators in support of restoration of poison center funding! These letters played an important part in preventing the closure of the IPC.
At the beginning of this year, federal support for the nation’s network of 57 poison centers was in jeopardy of being completely eliminated in the continuing resolution budget for 2011 – a crippling cut that eventually would have eliminated many of the nation’s poison centers, the IPC included. In the final budget resolution for the 2011 budget, 75% of funding was restored; not ideal, but enough to survive another year.
State funding was cut by 30% in 2009 and eventually led to the elimination of 5 positions in the poison center. This year, another 10% decrease was proposed for the 2011 state budget. However with your help, the cut was much less than originally proposed.
The ability to stem some of these cuts could not have been accomplished without the voice of those who use and value our service. The support came from all over the state and letters were read by the decision makers of our government. Again, we are very grateful for the time all of you took to send an e-mail, call, participate in the Facebook Virtual March and/or write a letter to your representatives. We are also thankful for the leadership of the state and federal legislators who supported the continued funding of the Illinois Poison Center.
What does it all mean?
The combined reduction in federal and state funding however has been difficult and will have a significant impact on the operations of the Illinois Poison Center. In addition to the 5 positions that were closed in 2009 due to a reduction in state funding, an additional 2 positions have been closed/eliminated and further reductions in staff time are planned for the fall.
This loss of staff will be felt most by users of our service. The time in which the IPC hotline staff answers a call has doubled when compared to the 2009 baseline. With the continuous hotline staff reductions, the IPC will no longer be able to consistently meet the national 911 standards for time to answer an emergency call. This will have an impact on concerned parents, caregivers, and the thousands of health care professionals throughout the state that depend on timely toxicology-related information and treatment recommendations.
In addition, outreach education will be slashed dramatically creating a void in helping the 12.9 million Illinoisans understand and learn about prevention methods that help ensure the health and safety of loved ones.
While we’ve taken a hit, the IPC is not out of the fight. Plans and strategies are already in motion to request some level of restoration of federal funding for all poison centers in the 2012 federal budget. In the meantime, the IPC staff will do their best to continue to provide all those who work and live in Illinois with information and treatment advice on potentially harmful substances, at highest level of service possible, and answer each and every call with compassion, accuracy and professionalism.
The Illinois Poison Center thanks for you for your support and we hope that you will continue to lend your voice to the Illinois Poison Center as we move forward.