Colorado center
gets isle poison
hotline calls

The 45-year-old Hawaii Poison Center has shifted from Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children to the Rocky Mountain Poison Center in Denver.

But callers won't notice any change, other than a new Hawaii Poison Hotline, (800) 222-1222.

The number is part of a national poison prevention network accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week from anywhere in the country.

Specially trained pharmacists and nurses at the Rocky Mountain center have been helping Hawaii residents with poisoning crises for several years through the local hotline number, which is being phased out.

Kapiolani hospital and state health officials have struggled to keep the poison center going since state support ended in 1995. Kapiolani administered and subsidized the program.

The last Legislature provided some money for the program.

Donna Maiava, chief of the state Health Department's Emergency Medical Services Systems Branch, said her office has $260,000 in state and federal funds to contract one year with the Rocky Mountain center, which answers Hawaii calls with "Hawaii Poison Center."

She said Kapiolani will continue a community advisory board and work with the Health Department on advocacy and poison education issues.

Until two or three years ago, Kapiolani staffed the poison center 24 hours a day, which became very expensive, said Willow Morton, vice president of the poison center at Kapiolani. Gradually, the Rocky Mountain center began taking calls, helping with the night shift when the program was short of funding.

"As we began working with them, the benefits were tremendous," Morton said. Hawaii has no clinical toxicology specialists, but the Rocky Mountain center, a certified poison center, has them on staff.

"We've done a lot of training with them and they've come out here" to learn Hawaii's geography and unique flora and fauna, Morton said.

The Hawaii Poison Hotline receives about 12,000 calls a month, some from as far away as Guam and Japan, Maiava said.

The Rocky Mountain center has access to an electronic database with more than 1 million substances, including new, potentially poisonous products coming into the market all the time, Morton said.


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