Poison Epidemiology

Texas Poison Center Network

 

NOTE: Individuals requiring assistance with a potential poisoning or drug identification should contact their local poison center at 1-800-222-1222. Thank you.

general information

Poison Help : Call 1-800-222-1212

General Information

The Texas Poison Center Network was established in 1993 by the 73rd Texas Legislature in Senate Bill 773 (Health and Safety Code 777), which mandated six regional poison centers to provide emergency treatment information and public and professional education regarding poisonings or toxic exposures by providing 24-hour access to health care information to reduce health care costs.

poison centers
Location of poison centers in Texas Poison Center Network
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The Network provides a 24-hour, 365 days a year, emergency telephone number resource for all Texas citizens. By simply dialing 1-800-222-1222, Texans have access to a 24-hour toxicology referral service staffed by specially trained physicians, pharmacists, and nurses. In 2006, the Texas Poison Center Network handled 358,886 calls. In addition, network educators work with schools, health care facilities, industries, and families to educate communities about the dangers of accidental poisonings and how to prevent them.

The Texas Poison Center Network is a joint effort among the six regional poison centers, the Commission on State Emergency Communications and the Texas Department of State Health Services (formerly the Department of Health). Together, these agencies work to improve the quality of care provided to callers by enhancing and revising treatment protocols, sharing knowledge, and efficiency utilizing state-of-the-art telecommunications capabilities.

The poison centers are individually staffed by specially trained doctors, pharmacists, nurses, toxicologists, and educators. When exposures occur, the specially trained poison center staff provide immediate treatment advice to the caller. All calls entering the Texas Poison Center Network are answered by trained professionals. These professionals include Specialists in Poison Information (SPI) who have a level of education ranging from pharmacists and registered nurses to those with doctorates in Pharmacology.

All of the poison centers in the Texas Poison Center Network are members of the American Association of Poison Control Centers (http://www.aapcc.org) and have been certified by this national organization of poison control centers. The Texas Poison Center Network is working toward system certification as a whole. System certification would allow the Texas Poison Center Network to operate with even greater efficiency by reallocating resources between the poison centers.

In general, calls to poison centers are voluntary and callers may refuse to provide whatever information they wish. The information on calls to poison centers is kept strictly confidential.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Texas Poison Center Network

On April 14, 2003, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Standards were implemented. Some health care providers have questioned whether HIPAA prohibits them from providing patient information to the Texas Poison Center Network. The Office of General Counsel of the Texas Department of State Health Services reviewed the issue and drafted a letter dated March 29, 2004, stating that health care providers can provide patient information to the Texas Poison Center Network. Click below to download a copy of this letter.

HIPAA letter from General Counsel: Download PDF File (671K)


Reporting of Controlled Substance Overdoses

State lawrequires healthcare providers, or any person treating a Penalty Group 1 drug overdose to report to the Department of State Health Services.

Where do I report overdoses?

To report a controlled substance overdose case, please visit  https://ODreport.dshs.texas.gov.

Please report cases within 24 hours to the Department of State Health Services. 

Inclusion of demographic information about patient is optional.

Note: The patient’s name, address, or details about patient identity, should not be reported.

Please see §161.042 and §481.102 of Texas Health and Safety Code for further details.


    Medical License Board Poison Center Information

    In 2003, the 78th Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 144, which requires various medical licensing boards to provide license holders with information on poison center services at least once each biennium.

     

    To assist in fulfilling this obligation, the Texas Department of State Health Services created this website, to which the various boards can provide links from their own websites.


    Public Health Emergencies

    Since September 11, 2001, the United States government and the public have placed tremendous emphasis on biological, chemical, and nuclear terrorist attacks. Poison centers receive calls regarding exposures to a variety of substances, including those that might be used in a terrorist attack. Thus the Texas Poison Center Network might assist in the early detection of potential terrorist attacks. The Texas Poison Center Network has put into place a policy to report potential terrorist attacks to the appropriate state authorities.

    Poison centers also function as information sources for the public and health care providers on the risk factors for and management of a variety of exposures. Therefore, it might be expected that poison centers would serve as information repositories for the agents likely to be used in terrorist attacks. The Texas Poison Center Network has in the past received requests for information on such agents as anthrax.

    In order to address the potential of terrorist attack, the U.S. Congress appropriated funding to the Centers for Disease Control to provide support to poison centers across the nation. This funding allows the centers to conduct real time disease detection, which monitors the occurrence of diseases and events that might signal a terrorist attack.

    As part of the Real Time Disease Detection grant, an educational component was included in the grant objectives. The first objective was to increase the Texas Poison Center Network agents' awareness of the signs and symptoms of diseases and conditions that may signal the beginning of a potential disaster. It is also important to increase this same awareness among physicians and emergency medical professionals since they, most likely, will be the first in contact with victims of an event. This awareness can be critical to the protection of the medical professionals needed to address the care of exposed victims.

    To meet these objectives, five Advanced HazMat Life Support courses were conducted. Two courses were held to train the Texas Poison Center Network agents, with three courses conducted to train EMS personnel, physicians, medical students, and other healthcare providers and administrators. Upon completion of the two day training and successfully passing the final examination, the attendees received a four-year certification. The course attendees felt the training broadened their abilities to recognize and further investigate conditions seen in their practices. EMS personnel will be more aware and better able to protect themselves and the professionals they encounter in order to prevent the spread of potential toxic exposures.

    While this training was conducted as a response to public health preparedness, the awareness gained by the healthcare providers is necessary in daily life. When accidents occur involving toxic substances and/or toxic chemicals, the knowledge gained through these courses will be useful in dealing with the exposures and injuries that occur.

    Surveillance and Research

    Through the centralized database housed at the Central Texas Poison Center in Temple, the Texas Poison Center Network is able to conduct real-time surveillance. This surveillance identifies abnormal increases in total call volume and the number of calls involving particular symptoms. The surveillance also identifies any calls relating to particular substances and particular circumstances involved in exposures. Trained Texas Poison Center Network staff are automatically notified of these calls and after evaluating the information can notify the appropriate people or organizations, such as the Department of State Health Services.

    All of the poison centers of the Texas Poison Center Network are constantly involved in research activities, both individually and in collaboration with other poison centers of the Texas Poison Center Network and other organizations. One of the primary duties of the epidemiologist of the Texas Department of State Health Services assigned to the Texas Poison Center Network is to perform research using Texas Poison Center Network data and to provide data to other interested parties. If you are interested in obtaining data from the Texas Poison Center Network, please call 512-458-7268, and ask for the Texas Poison Center Network epidemiologist.

      Additional Information

      Additional information on the Texas Poison Center Network can be found at http://www.poisoncontrol.org.

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      Last updated July 3, 2019