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Another Bipartisan HELP Committee Bill Headed to President’s Desk Following Unanimous Senate Passage

Poison Center Network Act Cleared HELP Committee in December; Harkin Fully Restored Sequester Cuts to Poison Centers in FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Another bipartisan Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee bill is headed to President Obama’s desk following unanimous Senate passage last night. The Poison Center Network Act cleared the Committee in December and passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week. The legislation is the eleventh bill—and the ninth health bill—in the HELP Committee’s jurisdiction to be signed into law under Chairman Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) leadership in the 113th Congress; a full list of bills can be found here.

“Poison control centers provide valuable and often life-saving services—free of charge—to Americans, including families with young children that unintentionally ingest or are otherwise exposed to poisons or toxins in the home. These centers also play a critical role in helping to identify emerging public health threats – all while saving an estimated $1.19 billion annually in averted medical costs,” Harkin said. “This bill, along with my Fiscal Year 2014 spending bill that provides critical funding for these centers, will ensure that poison prevention and support services remain available for families that need them. Once again, members of the Senate and House on both sides of the aisle have come together to enact legislation that strengthens public health.”

Harkin, in his role as Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS), fully restored the sequester cuts to poison control centers in the FY2014 omnibus Appropriations bill released earlier this week. Poison centers are funded at $18.8 million in the legislation.

The Poison Center Network Act reauthorizes the poison control center national toll-free number, nationwide media campaign, and state grant program to support poison prevention; authorizes continued funding for poison centers; and enhances public health in the United States. Poisoning is the second most common form of unintentional injury death in the United States. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that in any given year there will be between three and five million poison exposures. Approximately half of these exposures will involve children under the age of six who are exposed to toxins in their home.

There are currently 56 poison control centers nationwide. Each poison center is a medical support facility staffed by toxicologists, nurses, and other professionals providing a free, but critical, medical service. Poison centers have also become an important resource in detecting and monitoring potential public health emergencies, including outbreaks.