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Budget Cuts May Close Two Texas Poison Control Centers

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Andrea Lucia
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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Holly Robinson remembers the time her two year old son drank from a bottle of bleach.

“So he pulled a chair to the sink, climbed up there, grabbed it and unscrewed it, she said.

She panicked, and then dialed the North Texas Poison Center.

“I almost ripped the phone out of wall,” she said.

Every day, the poison center at Parkland Hospital in Dallas takes an average 300 calls.

“Usually I’m consistently back to back with calls,” said Donna Abron, who’s worked the phones there for 11 years.

Most of the calls come from private individuals.  More than half concern children.

The center can help after a drug overdose, a snake bite, or exposure to a chemical.

But, it is also actively monitoring patterns in calls to centers nationwide, putting it on the front line of identifying even bigger threats.

“Massive food poisonings, anthrax, weapons of mass destruction,” lists Melody Gardner.

The poison center in Dallas is one of six across Texas, supported entirely by state and federal funds.

But, with both the state and federal governments slashing budgets, Texas lawmakers are considering whether to shut down two of the six centers.

“It’d be very difficult, it’d be very hard. We’d be looking at a lot of people losing their job,” said Gardner.

With fewer call takers, those in need could find themselves on hold.

“In medical care, seconds mean lives,” said Gardner.

A six cent fee to your phone bill every month is supposed to help pay for poison centers.

Over the next two years, it is predicted to raise 21.6 million dollars, but the network expects to get only about half that.

Lawmakers have been stealing the rest to balance the budget.

Robinson wishes they’d find a better solution.

“I would hope they could find other avenues and other places to cut. Things that don’t impact the health of our children,” she said.

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