A comatose 53 year female is found on the floor surrounded by 6 empty pill bottles. She is brought to a local emergency department for treatment. The physician examines the patient and then reaches for the phone . . .
A police officer pulls over a car that has been weaving on the roadway. In the car, there is a baggie of unmarked pills and the officer wonders if they are the cause of the erratic driving. He pulls out his cell phone . . .
A paramedic in a rural area picks up someone who just drank windshield wiper fluid. He wonders what sort of symptoms might develop in the 30 minute transport to the hospital. He picks up the phone and calls . . .
Illinois State Law Enforcement would like regular reports on the epidemic of synthetic drugs in Illinois. They reach for the phone and dial . . .
These are just a few of the reasons people and organizations call the Illinois Poison Center. The IPC is a first responder that provides critical, needed information at the point of care, whether it is a frantic care-giver or an experienced emergency department physician looking for help with a complex, critically ill poisoned patient.
The value of the IPC’s response efforts have been well quantified in the past: every dollar spent on poison center services saves $13 dollars in health care costs and lost productivity. It is estimated that the IPC saved 4,000 ambulance runs and 35,000 ER visits in 2012 alone through its call center services. By providing immediate information and treatment advice at the site of care, critically scarce emergency resources can be saved for those who truly need them.
If the IPC closed, where would people go for information? The frantic mom could call 911 and be transported to the hospital. In the example above however, unintentional pediatric bleach ingestions are generally not harmful and not an emergency that needs an ambulance or emergency department visit (kind of surprising isn’t it?).
For the police officer who calls the poison center for identification of prescription medication that is found to be Oxycontin, the potential cause of the impairment may be found easily with a simple phone call. The IPC helps the police do their job of protecting and serving our communities more efficiently.
Who would law enforcement or other public agency call the Illinois Poison Center for data? Every call the IPC receives is an emergency to the caller and each case is uploaded into a database that is now over a million strong. (All the caller’s personal info — name, phone, etc. — is confidential and not entered into the database.) The Illinois Poison Center database is the only acute-care database on poisoning in Illinois. It can give a snapshot into the harmful substances that cause injury in our state at any point in time. It is ideal for tracking outbreaks of synthetic drugs, prescription drug abuse or other potential public health threats.
Despite all the great things the IPC does however, the organization has had to make some drastic cuts recently. The IPC is a non-profit organization that relies solely on funding to provide the care mentioned above to all living/working in Illinois.Over the past 4 years, the IPC has lost $1.5 million in federal and state funding. In response to this, more than 25 percent of the staff time has been reduced, leaving some service quality gaps. In these past four years, the average call waiting time has doubled from 14 seconds to 28 seconds, slowly inching up with each budget cut and as a consequence, each staff reduction. As a way of comparison, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) standards that guide 911 dispatch centers, state that 95% of calls should be answered within 20 seconds. The decreased funding support for IPC services has forced us to slip in meeting the first responder standards for emergency call centers; something that we met very easily prior to 2009.
The IPC provides fast, expert advice to the public, health care providers and others in the first responder community. With a return on investment of 13:1, it is a great value for the state. Please consider showing your support by