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Poison Centers Save Money

For every dollar invested in the poison center system, $13.39 is saved in health care costs and loss of productivity, according to a recent Lewin Group study. Despite the cost-saving nature of poison centers, many are at risk of funding cuts and some, of being shut down all together. Last year, federal funding was cut by 36 percent, a confounding move, especially when the federal government saves 662.8 million dollars in medical costs and lost productivity with its 17.1 million dollar investment.

An analysis of the return on investment of the poison center system found that 752.9 million dollars was saved on avoided medical utilization, 441.1 million was saved on reduced hospital length of stay, 23.9 million dollars was saved on in-person outreach and 603 million dollars was saved on reduced work-loss days.

With more than 40,000 people dying every year from unintentional poisonings, and poison centers receiving about 4 million calls each year, it is clear that poisoning is significant issue.

In a 2011 USA Today article, Senator Tom Harkin, a democrat from Iowa, was quoted saying, “In an emergency, the voice on the other end of the phone line should not be a recording that your local poison control center has closed … We can reduce the deficit, but not at the expense of programs that protect people’s lives.”

Because poison centers provide the expertise to handle poisoning situations in-home, individuals at risk can begin treatment right away, a potentially life-saving fact in poison cases where every second counts.  In addition, money is saved on the use of costly health services including emergency room and doctor’s office visits.

Of those who do require medical attention, patients who contacted poison control spent approximately three days fewer in the hospital, saving money on expensive hospital stays and reducing the number of workdays missed, according to the Lewin Group study.

With ample statistics supporting the cost-saving nature of poison centers, and poison centers still at risk of losing funding across the United States, the AAPCC is working toward raising awareness and garnering public support in hopes of securing federal and private funding. This will ensure that poison centers are able to continue to serve their local communities through the Poison Help line, a number that connects the public with poison expert advice, seven days a week, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.

To better demonstrate the impact of losing a poison center, The Lewin Group report presented a case study that demonstrated the impact of loss of poison center service on a community. The study, authored by King and Plamisano, followed a Louisiana poison center before and after the community it served  lost services. The authors of the study then compared the impact of the Louisiana poison center closure and the neighboring Alabama poison center.

The findings supported the assertion that utilization of poison centers limits the unnecessary use of expensive hospital and doctors visits, subsequently saving the state money.

“Prior to the loss of poison center access in Louisiana, Louisiana and Alabama had very similar poison exposure triage patterns. When Louisiana residents lost access to their poison center services, the researchers noted that less than half of the Louisiana residents managed poison exposures at home when compared to Alabama residents. Louisiana residents sought the services of health care facilities more than four times that of residents of Alabama who had access to a poison center,” reads the Lewin study.

By encouraging the financial stability of the nation’s 57 poison centers, the AAPCC and its members are working toward the fortification of a system that not only verifiably saves money, but saves lives as well.

Help support your local poison center. Register for the AAPCC Advocacy Network at www.capwiz.com/aapcc, and send letters to your representatives in Washington, D.C.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers supports the nation’s 57 poison centers in their efforts to prevent and treat poison exposures. Poison centers offer free, private, confidential medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We take calls in more than 150 languages and from the hearing impaired.

For questions about poison or if you think someone has been exposed to a poison, call 1-800-222-1222 to reach your local poison center. 

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