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Upstate New York Poison Center celebrates 65 years of service

In 2022 the Upstate New York Poison Center is celebrating 65 years of service.

The poison center began in 1957 as the Central New York Poison Center. In the last 65 years it has expanded from a 14-county service area to now serving 54 of the 62 counties in New York state under the direction of the New York State Department of Health. The center has graciously been housed at Upstate Medical University for its entire existence. The Upstate New York Poison Center assists healthcare providers, 911 operators, hospitals, industry, schools, and the general public with poison emergencies by providing state-of-the-art management expertise. It strives to provide the most current toxicology management and prevention information to both the general public and healthcare community with the goal of reducing the number, the cost, and the severity of poison exposures.

Poison center staff provide telephone triage and case management for poison exposures, 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, to 125 hospitals with a population base of 7.3 million people. The clinical and education staff is committed to being the definitive toxicology resource within these communities

The poison center’s entire staff has grown over the years to accommodate the new populations it serves. The center has 21 clinical and medical toxicologists and 21 specialists in poison information (SPIs). The public education team consists of three full-time educators, a marketing coordinator, and several dedicated administrative assistants.

“In the 25 years I have worked for the poison center, I have consistently seen the most calls for young children.,” says Dr. Christine Stork, clinical director of the Upstate New York Poison Center. “Children are curious, and we know without the service we have provided for the past 65 years, many families would take unnecessary trips to a hospital or worse.” 

Top 3 poisonings for children 5 and under for the past 10 years:

  1. Personal Care Products (i.e., hand sanitizer)
  2. Household Cleaning Products (i.e., bleach)
  3. Analgesics (i.e., Tylenol, Ibuprofen) 

The Upstate New Poison Center is constantly evolving to better meet the needs of the communities it serves. This year, the poison center plans to honor its past and look to the future with celebrations, education, and new initiatives. One goal for 2022, as the law has changed in regard to marijuana, is to provide more education around edible THC products and encouraging everyone to treat these products just like a medication.

“Though I've only been medical director for seven months, one change I've noticed is an increase in unintentional edible THC exposures in young patients.,” says Dr. Vince Calleo, medical director of the Upstate New York Poison Center.  “This is problematic because children may experience more severe effects from THC than adults. Some of the Poison Center's initiatives to combat unintentional exposures include public education on the dangers of pediatric THC exposures and encouraging preventative measures, including the use of medication lock boxes as well as keeping substances up and out of sight.”

A snapshot of 2021:

  • The poison center handled 49,974 cases
  • 68% of calls were managed in a non-healthcare facility
  • Of the calls for children 5 and under, 90% of these calls were managed at home
  • 71% of the poison center’s calls were for an unintentional poisoning