PROVIDE 911 FUNDS FOR POISON CENTER
Ask the people in Union County who made 344 calls to the Oregon Poison Center in 2002 what they think about the center permanently closing, and you can pretty well guess what their answer would be.
Most, if not all, would think that closure of the center in Portland, which has helped save the lives of children throughout the state, is a poor idea. But the Oregon Health & Science University has placed $1.5 million in funding for the poison center on the chopping block to help balance the university's 2003-04 budget.
The need for the Oregon Poison Center is obvious. People, typically mothers, call the poison center's toll-free number (1-800-222-1222) when a child has ingested furniture polish, cleaning detergent, insecticide or some other toxic product.
A nurse specialist at OHSU takes down the information, looks up the product on the computer and coaches the adult in treating the child. A followup call is made to see how the youngster is doing.
In some cases, the child requires hospital care. Twenty-four of the 344 calls made from Union County last year were referred to Grande Ronde Hospital.
Hospital staff also turns to the Oregon Poison Center for information when patients have come to the emergency room for treatment for poisoning. Grande Ronde Hospital made 39 such calls to the center in 2002.
Oregonians do not need to sit by and watch as the Oregon Poison Center is dismantled July 1. House Bill 2709 would provide the $1.5 million needed to keep the center open. The money would come from the 911 phone tax. A proliferation of phones in the state has brought a surplus to this fund, allowing some of this money to be directed to the center. But even if the surplus did not exist, it would be correct to add a few extra pennies to the 911 tax each month to pay for the center.
The poison center processes a whopping 50,000 calls from Oregonians each year. Seventy calls came from Wallowa County in 2002. Since OHSU has found it is unable to pay for this life-saving service, then it is the responsibility of the state to step in and provide funding.
Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, and Sen. David Nelson, R-Pendleton, and other House and Senate members should back this important bill.
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