Local Poison Center Joins National Effort to Promote New Hotline

It also expands reach, will service three additional counties

January 30, 2002

The Finger Lakes Regional Poison and Drug Information Center will join with 64 other poison centers today in a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about 1-800-222-1222, a new life-saving national hotline for poison emergency treatment and advice.

"This national hotline is an invaluable new resource for families, industry, and government," says John Benitez, M.D., M.P.H., managing director and associate medical director of the Finger Lakes Regional Poison and Drug Information Center. "It will help ensure that no matter where people are, they will always know the number for the experts at the closest regional poison center. In an emergency, this information is vitally important and could save a life. It is our hope that everyone will soon know to call 1-800-222-1222 for poison treatment and prevention."

By dialing 1-800-222-1222, callers automatically will be connected to specially trained nurses, pharmacists, and doctors at the closest regional poison center. By connecting callers to the closest center, the hotline helps ensure callers can always reach health care specialists familiar with local concerns and the local health care community.

In the Finger Lakes area, callers will be connected to experts they have trusted for years at the Finger Lakes Regional Poison and Drug Information Center. These poison experts will immediately respond to poison emergencies and answer poison-related questions about medications, household products, chemicals, and other potentially dangerous substances. The poison center's current toll-free number will be phased out by the end of the year.

"We strongly encourage everyone to learn this new number so they can easily access it, anytime and anywhere in the United States. " says Ruth Lawrence, M.D., who founded the Finger Lakes Regional Poison and Drug Information Center nearly five decades ago and serves as medical director.

"This hotline is an important new tool in our continued effort to raise awareness about poison dangers and how to prevent poisonings in the first place," Benitez says. "We highly encourage local citizens to call and take advantage of this free and confidential service."

The national campaign to raise awareness about the new toll-free hotline is sponsored by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. A new Web site, www.1-800-222-1222.info, provides poison prevention information.

The hotline and public awareness campaign are in accordance with the Poison Control Center Enhancement and Awareness Act (P.L. 106-174), approved by Congress in February 2000. The Health Resources and Services Administration, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides program funding.

Founded in 1955, the Finger Lakes Regional Poison and Drug Information Center is the second oldest in the country. It provides vital information and counsel to health care professionals and the general public in Chemung, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates counties. This year, the Finger Lakes Regional Poison and Drug Information Center began handling inquiries from three additional counties - Cayuga, Tioga and Tompkins.

"We provide information about all kinds of poisons and drugs, offer poison- prevention education, and have information about treatment services for all age groups," Benitez says. "Our staff members have expertise in dealing with poisoning caused by medications, chemicals, natural products, and snake and insect bites."

To speak with a specialist, call 1-800-222-1222, or at TTY number 585-273-3854. The center is staffed by medical toxicology physicians, and registered nurses and pharmacists specially trained and certified in toxicology are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The free service is confidential.

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Teri D'Agostino
(585) 275-3676
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