Genesis Health System officials, citing "deep concern" about Illinois' budget priorities, urged Monday that permanent funding be found for a poison hotline that handles 82,000 emergency cases per year.

"We do rely on the Illinois Poison Center," Dr. Wayne Gallops, the medical director of emergency services at Genesis Medical Center-Silvis, said during a news conference at the hospital.

He described the specialized services as vital and a "version of 911" that is available 365 days a year.

Gallops said the poison control services help to limit hospitalizations and emergency department visits as well as provide immediate treatment to individuals.

Often, it is parents who call the toll-free number, asking about the effects of various substances on their children.

According to the center, unintentional poisoning is a top cause of injury-related death among children 18 to 36 months old and the second-leading cause of injury-related death for adults in the United States.

A system of 50 poison control centers is at work across the United States, and Gallops said Illinois was the first of those to be established. "All the other states followed Illinois," he said.

Medications left around the parents' or grandparents' house are a common cause of accidental ingestion by children, said Laura Carson, the critical care services manager in the hospital's emergency department.

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Carson also talked about a case in which a young child ingested a cigarette and how the poison center was able to help that family. 

Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, was not at the news conference, but he issued a statement of support. Because of increases in federal and state budget deficits, he wrote, the poison center is facing closure June 30. The Illinois Legislature would need to act to provide adequate funding, which Verschoore supports.

Ken Croken, the vice president of community relations for Genesis Health System, said two bills are alive in the Legislature. The funding stream that is needed is proposed to come from the account used for the 911 emergency telephone system.

"Both bills stand a reasonably good chance of success," Croken said.

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