The director of the Iowa Poison Control Center says her agency faces a $440,000 deficit. Linda Kalin says it’s a “critical time” for the center which serves as an information clearinghouse for the entire state.
“I can promise you the 50,000 people who call (each year) call this an essential, vital service,” Kalin says.
The federal government pays for the statewide toll-free hotline, but the doctor and 12 full-time nurses who are staff are paid by a combination of state funds and private donations. Kalin says if her Sioux City-based facility shuts down, any calls in Iowa will be routed to a center in some other state where staff may not be familiar with crucial Iowa data.
“I can tell you what poisonous snakes are in this state and where they live,” Kalin says. “….We know what hospitals, which antidotes they all stock, what lab (work) they can do in the middle of the night and so forth.”
Kalin was among a delegation of officials and business owners from the Sioux City area who met with Governor Branstad Wednesday. The group acknowledge Branstad already has proposed spending over a half million dollars in state taxpayer dollars on the Poison Control Center, but the Sioux City delegation asked for the state to step in with more.
“All hospitals in Iowa are now funding a quarter of our budget. We were very successful on that private side. They are very engaged in needing the service. This isn’t just: ‘Call if your child gets poisoned.’ You know that,” Kalin told Branstad. “We also train the health care providers in toxicology.”
Efforts to get private support from insurance companies have fallen short. Branstad offered to help Kalin lobby Wellmark, the state’s largest insurance company, to renew its funding for the facility. Wellmark had given the center $50,000 in each of the past three years.
The Iowa Poison Control Center responds to a variety of crises, from questions about spider bites to concerns from law enforcement who’ve arrested someone who has taken a prescription drug they haven’t encountered before. Kalin cites a study which indicates for every dollar spent on the Poison Control Center’s budget, $16 in health care costs are avoided because the center’s staff helps callers aoivd a trip to the emergency room. There are 56 other centers in the U.S. that handle questions about potential poisoning and a federal report indicates nearly all of the centers face budget challenges.