Budget Cut Could Lead to Closure of W.Va. Poison Center

A spokesperson with the West Virginia Poison Control Center tells WSAZ.com its agency won

MGN Online

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Lawmakers are currently in a special session debating the state budget for the next fiscal year.

Under the current budget, most state agencies are facing a 7.5-percent cut to their budgets, with a few exemptions including agencies like West Virginia State Police.

A spokesperson with the West Virginia Poison Center tells WSAZ.com its agency is slated for the cut and won't survive if it's approved. The 7.5-percent cut would amount to about $57,000 a year for the center.

However, the cuts wouldn't stop there for the poison center. Community Outreach Coordinator Carissa McBurney, says when the poison center loses state funding, it also faces the same cut in federal funding. In this case, it would be another 7.5-percent, totaling $114,000 a year from its current budget.

McBurney says the agency wouldn't survive under this type of cut. Right now, the center operates with eight full time nurses, a director and two part time employees.

According to a news release, West Virginia Poison Center is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The center handles more than 42,000 calls a year.

During the recent water crisis in January that affected 300,000 people in nine counties, the center received about 2,500 calls in the first few days after the chemical spill at Freedom Industries. McBurney says when you break that number down the center averaged about a call a minute during that time.

"I am scared of what will happen if West Virginia does not have a poison control center," Crystal Wood, mom and daycare employee said. "The West Virginia Poison Center is vital to the public's safety. The West Virginia Poison Center saves lives. You never know when you may need the West Virginia Poison Center."

The director of the poison center is planning to be at the state capitol Monday to discuss the budget cuts with lawmakers and the impact it would have on the agency.

If the West Virginia Poison Center would close, McBurney says West Virginia would be the only state without a call center.

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