by Holly Petrovich, Staff Writer

According to the Illinois Poison Center, the number of calls for help in 2012 dropped by approximately 5,000 from the year before.

The Illinois Poison Center is a non-profit health service to provide Illinois residents with information and advice on potentially harmful substances on a free 24-hour hotline.

Out of the 82,000 calls that were made in the past year, about 74,000 of them were for advice to help someone who had actually been in contact with a hazardous product.

Erin Pallasch, pharmacist and certified specialist in poison information, takes calls from the general public when they need advice or information regarding a certain substance.

Pallasch said the reason the amount of calls have dropped in the past year is because more people are now able to access this same information online. It is a faster way to get the information they need, rather than waiting on hold for a call center specialist.

“We don’t have as many people working, and the people we do have dropped 90 percent [of their] hours and took a pay cut,” Pallasch explained.

“Some people don’t wait on hold long enough to actually count as a call and end up going to the emergency room instead of getting our advice.”

In order to stabilize funding, the IPC is trying to encourage the residents of Illinois to sign an online petition to remind the state legislators of their excellent services, she also explained.

Additionally, calls about sedatives and antipsychotics have become very common at the IPC, being one of the top reasons for a call.

Jean Swearingen, medical director at Student Health Services, said SHS receives calls every day to answer students’ questions on illnesses or medications.

Swearingen said most of the calls to the poison center line involve children taking an adult’s medication or eating hazardous foods.

The IPC also stated 47 percent of the phone calls made in the last year were by an adult trying to help a child under the age of five.

This makes the amount of calls regarding poison control at the Health Services center very rare due to our adult population.

“We have occasional calls about possible exposures to substances or accidental overuse of a medication, but it is not a common scenario,” Swearingen said.

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