Although the 2014 regular legislative session came to an end Saturday night, West Virginia lawmakers remain in the capital city discussing the state budget for the next fiscal year.
As it stands now, many agencies are facing a 7 1/2 percent cut to their budgets, including the Mountain State's only poison control center. Dr. Elizabeth Scharman is the center's director and she says this cut, which amounts to about $57,000, would be toxic to the agency and force it to shut down.
"I think we strive really hard to make the best use of people's tax dollars to help a lot of people in all parts of the state," Scharman said. "We are bare-bones already and there isn't anything else to cut."
The center is currently operating with eight full-time nurses, a director and two part-time employees. It's open 24 hours a day and gives emergency treatment advice to people who may have taken the wrong medicine, accidentally swallowed cleaning supplies or have been bitten by snakes. The center also advises hospitals, doctors and clinics about specific toxins.
According to Scharman, on a typical day the center receives about 100 phone calls. However, when crude MCHM leaked into the Elk River and contaminated the water for nine West Virginia Counties the center received about 2,400 calls in a couple of days.
Scharman warns this budget cut could force the center's doors to close as early as January. If it does close West Virginia would be the only state without a poison control center. All calls would have to be directed to neighboring states since there is not a national poison center to call.