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The Littlest Victims of The Recession – Part II

Last updated on March 5th, 2018 at 08:08 am

I wrote several weeks ago about the effect the economic crisis was having on our littlest ones. How 44% of children’s hospitals were reporting increases in ER visits this year because people were avoiding insurance and doctor’s office visits they couldn’t afford, and delaying care until it was absolutely necessary. The message was clear: children and their parents, the people working night and day to care for them, were flooding ER’s across the country. And the effect this was having on our children’s health and wellbeing was starting to take its toll.
But this we knew. I’m not saying we accepted it, but at least in knowing there was a threat we could try and do something about it. I emphasize this because today we discover yet another threat to our little ones courtesy of the recession…and like the one prior, this too has the potential to be deadly if ignored.
The US has a single poison control hot line (800-222-1222) available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for questions about possible poisonings. About two million people call the hot line each year. Half the calls concern children 5 and younger. And today, according to a report published in the NY Times, as part of an effort to close its $24.3 billion budget deficit, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed eliminating the state’s $6 million contribution to its four poison control centers making California the only state without a poison control program. (by Sarah Arnquist, NY Times http://ow.ly/g7Ob)

 
I sit here and wonder how can that be the right decision. Often I won’t question a budget until I can see all the numbers behind it, but there is a basic scenario here I have some difficulty coming to terms with and I can’t imagine that anyone – especially our children – come out ahead:
One of the nation’s largest poison control program closes – there are huge implications for some of the others since they are all budget constrained – but let’s put that aside for now. Unfortunately it is not hard to predict what will happen next. It is highly likely that without a poison hot line, people will either go directly to the emergency rooms or call 911, and the dispatchers who are not poison control experts will send an ambulance. There is a cost associated with this which studies have shown equates to approx. $7 of savings to every dollar spent on poison control. Beyond that is the fact that I am not sure how this will help an already overburdened ER system. Everyone will need to wait longer to be seen. Now we get to where this really hurts.
Forget the cost savings, forget that in the late 1980’s Louisiana eliminated its poison control program but later reinstated it after officials realized that it actually saved the state money. If you take nothing from anything else I’ve written here please remember these 2 points: Poisoning is the second leading cause of death from injuries after car accidents…and HALF of these calls are for little children under 5. Who is more frail…whose bodies are going to run that poison more quickly…who cannot afford to wait in a crowded ER?

 
Will $6M make a significant impact on a $24.3B budget deficit? Maybe…but is it worth it? I said it the last time I wrote about this subject and I say it again today: It is up to us to make sure this recession’s littlest victims do not become its casualties. If not for us, then who??