July 20, 2007

Poison Center reaches milestone

Featured Image

Miss Tennessee Grace Gore signs an autograph for Parker Lyon, 7, at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. (photo by Susan Urmy)

The Tennessee Poison Center, a program of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, recently received the 1 millionth call to its hotline service for poison emergency and information calls.

It is part of the national Poison Help hotline, which can be reached at (800) 222-1222. Callers are then routed to the closest poison control center.

Since it was established in 1988, the center has grown from a regional poison control center to a statewide center providing programs to 6 million Tennessee residents in 95 counties.

All calls placed in Tennessee — more than 350 per day from health care professionals as well as the general public — are routed to the Tennessee Poison Center and are answered by poison specialists who are registered nurses, pharmacists and physicians. In 2006, the center received 127,000 calls, making it the sixth busiest poison control center in the United States.

Medical backup is provided by Donna Seger, M.D., medical director, and Saralyn Williams, M.D.

“Tennessee Poison Center is a perfect example of an effective and efficient health care service,” said Seger.

“It has been estimated that more than $7 in unnecessary health care expenditures is averted for each $1 invested in a poison control center. In fact, poison control centers are equal to immunizations in public health delivery by significantly reducing health care costs and costs to citizens.”

A recent study estimated that the center saves the state of Tennessee more than $1.6 million in health care costs yearly.

Tennessee Poison Center provides poison education statewide through a collaborative effort with the University of Tennessee Extension Service.

Last year, more than 1,000 programs were presented to 45,000 Tennesseans. In addition, 400,000 pieces of poison prevention literature were distributed.

The center also provides statewide surveillance for chemical and biological terrorism.

The center receives funding from a variety of sources, including the Tennessee Department of Health, federal grants, 18 United Way agencies, hospitals throughout Tennessee, and individual donations.