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Release: Nov. 8, 2000

NOTE TO EDITORS: The dedication ceremony will take place at St. Luke's Regional Medical Center in Sioux City. Center staff will be available for interviews. For assistance in covering this event, please contact Janet Flanagan at (712) 279-3481.

UI, Sioux City officials to dedicate new statewide poison control center Nov. 8

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Officials will dedicate the new Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center during a special ribbon-cutting ceremony from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8 at St. Luke's Regional Medical Center in Sioux City. The center began providing poison treatment information to all 99 Iowa counties early this fall through a toll-free, 24-hour telephone service.

Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center is a service provided jointly by St. Luke's and University of Iowa Health Care. Staff members at St. Luke's will respond to calls from the public and health care professionals regarding poison information and treatment. Specialists at both sites will provide outreach education and training to health care providers.

The center will employ 10 full and part-time registered nurse specialists in poison information, four who are certified poison information specialists. In its first year of operation, the new center expects to receive 25,000 calls from people seeking information about various poisons and toxic substances.

Previously, two separate poison control services at St. Luke's and the UI Hospitals and Clinics served Iowa. The two centers agreed to merge after the Iowa legislature approved the use of tobacco settlement funds to operate a single statewide center. The Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center will receive $437,000 in funding.

The development of one major poison center in Iowa is an important step for the state, said Linda Kalin, managing director of the new statewide center. "Poison control centers have been developed across the nation to provide free, emergency assistance by telephone to poison victims, the public and health professionals," Kalin said. "By merging our services into one major center, we expect to enhance the quality of our service and operate more efficiently."

The combined center will answer calls from parents and other consumers in their homes, as well as community hospitals, paramedics and first responders, businesses, group homes, nursing homes, corrections facilities, and medical examiners. The combination of resources will enhance the efficient provision of poison control and information services to all Iowans.

"The new center will be a superb resource for all Iowans," said Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm D., director of pharmaceutical care at the UI Hospitals and Clinics. "Readily accessible poison control information is critical. For every dollar spent on poison centers, seven dollars in medical costs are saved, mainly by reducing the need for emergency department visits for cases that can be safely managed at home."

Abramowitz will chair the center's 10-member board of directors representing UI Health Care and St. Luke's Regional Medical Center. Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center is an independent, non-profit entity jointly owned by Iowa Health System/St. Luke's and UI Health Care.

Consolidation of Iowa's poison information services makes the center eligible for certification by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. More than 40 states provide funding for state-designated centers. Federal legislation currently pending could provide further assistance for poison prevention and enhance funding of U.S. poison control centers, Abramowitz and Kalin said. Those funds have not yet been appropriated.

People calling the Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center will dial a new toll-free telephone number for assistance. That number is (800) 352-2222.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.