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Proposed Budget Cuts Threaten W.Va. Poison Center

Reported: Mar. 10, 2014 5:49 PM EDT
Updated: Mar. 10, 2014 5:55 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Kennie Bass) - At the height of the water crisis, the West Virginia Poison Center was taking a call a minute from people with questions about their tap water.

In all, the center field 2400 calls about the crisis.

But, if a proposed seven and a half percent budget cut goes through, the Poison Center's director says there won't be anyone left to answer the phone.

"If we don't get our full funding this year, we will not be able to make it through the current fiscal year," Elizabeth Scharman, director of the West Virginia Poison Center said.

Scharman adds the center fielded 42,000 calls last year, both from people concerned about toxic substances and medical professionals. She says the seven and a half percent cut in state money would trigger a similar reduction in federal funds. And she says losing that much money would mean the end of the center.

"Over the past six years we've already had our budget cut over 38 percent," Scharman said. "So we are already at the lowest staffing level we can have and still provide 24 hour a day coverage, which is required for certification and is required by the legislation that authorizes a poison center in West Virginia."

House and senate budget conferees are working on the document this week. The senate majority leader says if Scharman's numbers are accurate, something must be done to make sure the poison center stays open.

"We definitely need a 24-hour hotline in the sense of people needing to call in because situations happen all during the day and in the night," Senator John Unger of Berkeley County said. "But we have to take a real serious look at this and try to find the money."

If the money is not restored to the poison center's budge and it is forced to close, West Virginia would be the only state in the country not covered by a poison center.



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