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Why Poison Centers Matter

The medical expertise available at poison centers means lives are saved every day. Poisoning incidents are on the rise; deaths from accidental overdoses alone now exceed deaths from car accidents. A hotline that provides expert medical advice about medications and toxic exposures around the clock is a vital service.

Poison centers also are key to public health surveillance. We provided support to state and local governments responding to the H1N1 flu pandemic. We managed health exposures and collected important data on the impact of the Gulf oil spill and were the first to raise the alarm about the toxic effects of synthetic marijuana and hallucinagens known as "bath salts."

Poison centers also save millions of dollars a year for Americans and the companies and agencies that cover the cost of their care. A 2012 report commissioned by the American Association of Poison Control Centers showed that nationally centers save citizens more than $1.8 billion annually in medical costs. Examination of additional data collected in Arizona shows that our state’s two centers save residents nearly $45.5 million every year.

The table below shows some of the facts from the national and Arizona data.

 

United States

Arizona

Population served (2010 census)

315,774,469

6,392,013

Human exposures managed

2,348,825

72,185

Human exposures per 1,000 residents

7.55

11.29

Federal funding

$17.1 million

$386,755

State funding

$83.8 million

$990,000

Current federal and state funding

32 cents per resident

21.5 cents per resident

Current state funding, alone

26 cents per resident

15.4 cents per resident

Savings to population served

$1.8205 billion*

> $45,454,937

 

$5.77 per resident *

> $7.09 per resident ^

Savings to state Medicaid (AHCCCS)

$214.7 million *

> $9.31 million^ §

Savings to Medicare

$176.9 million *

> $2.77 million^ §

Savings to  private insurance

$271.6 million *

> $28.63 million^ §

* Savings based mainly on avoided medical utilization, reduced hospital length of stay, and reduced work-loss days.

^Savings based only on avoided unnecessary healthcare services, from a published 2008 study specifically examining this issue in Arizona, and cited by the Lewin Report (“Poison control centers decrease emergency healthcare utilization costs”, Journal of Medical Toxicology 2008;4:221-224.) These values for savings were low-end estimates of mean savings and, furthermore, did not include savings from reduced hospital length of stays, reduced work-loss days, prevention of unnecessary utilization of ambulances and 911 services, or prevention of unnecessary laboratory tests and X-rays. Finally, these values represent unadjusted 2007 savings. Thus, actual savings would be greater.

§Arizona Savings to AHCCCS, Medicare, and private insurance are based on repeated surveys over several years of patients in Arizona whose toxic exposures are managed by a poison center at home. In these surveys, 20.5 % are members of AHCCCS, 6.1% are covered by Medicare, and 63% have private insurance.

If you agree that poison centers help keep you safe and healthy, share your support with your state decisionmakers.

 

Originally posted: Oct 19, 2014
Last updated: Aug 29, 2016