A poison control center is an informational hotline that instructs individuals on what to do if they swallow, inhale, get splashed with, or stung by something that is poisonous to the human body. All services are provided at no cost and, through prevention, education, and treatment, these centers are community assets that protect and save Pennsylvanians every day.
The Pittsburgh Poison Center is staffed 24/7/365 by registered nurses and pharmacists who are specially trained to provide poison exposure information, determine urgency, and make treatment recommendations. When additional consultation is required, staff work with attending physicians and fellows who are affiliated with the UPMC Toxicology Program, the region’s only recognized Center for Poison Treatment.
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How Pennsylvania Poison Centers Measured up in 2019:
- More than 12 million residents in all 67 counties across Pennsylvania were able to access services.
- Pennsylvania Poison Center staff managed 85,291 cases regarding human exposure to poisons, drugs, and toxins.
- Poison activities avoided more than $45 million in charges for emergency health care visits and EMS activation.
- Less than 8% of callers had to be referred to a hospital after speaking with staff.
“The overall impact of the Pittsburgh Poison Center is difficult to measure,” says Pittsburgh Poison Center Medical Director Michael Lynch, MD. “Our services help to prevent poisoning; provide reassurance to countless families; prevent expensive, unnecessary health care visits; reduce hospital lengths of stay; as well as educate the lay public and health care providers alike on the recognition and response to poisoning events.”
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Pennsylvania Poison Centers in the Community
Education/ Mr. Yuk ™
Since 1971, the Pittsburgh Poison Center has educated the public on poison safety primarily through Mr. Yuk™, the first poison education symbol in the nation. Each year, millions of Mr. Yuk stickers are distributed around the world, and corporations frequently place his face on the product labels of hazardous materials.
Combatting the Opioid Epidemic
In a state hit hard by the opioid crisis, Pennsylvania Poison Centers are working to fight back through:
- Community education programs that demonstrate opioid overdose responses, treatments, and resources.
- Medical education that contributes to the development and delivery of a new medical school curriculum, including pain management, opioid prescribing, and overdose and addiction treatment.
- Public health surveillance that notifies relevant parties of new opioids, other drugs of abuse, and overdose events.
- Partnership with law enforcement to gather intelligence and provide consultation when requested.
- Naloxone distribution and training to provide education on naloxone availability, distribution, and appropriate use.
- Collaboration with health care facilities, EMS, and first responders regarding processes to distribute and prescribe naloxone.
- The Warm Handoff Program – a 24/7 phone line that screens individuals with substance use disorders, directs treatment of withdrawal, enhances access to naloxone, and provides connection to county agencies and treatment providers.
“As a nonprofit organization that delivers specialized medical care and advice to the public at no cost, while saving the system tens of millions of dollars, state funding is critical to continuing our lifesaving work, and it makes up approximately a quarter of our budget,” Dr. Lynch said.
To learn more about the Pittsburgh Poison Center, visit: https://www.upmc.com/services/poison-center
If you or someone else may be experiencing a poison-related emergency, please call the Poison Center’s 24-Hour Emergency line at 1-800-222-1222.
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