Local 911 Directors Against Poison Center Funding Plan


By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Benjy Jeffords

SALINE COUNTY -- A new state funding plan is putting two groups that answer emergency calls at odds.

The Illinois Poison Control Center is in budget trouble, so operators are pushing for a cut of cell phone fees. That would come at the expense of local 911 centers.
The Senate approved the plan this week. It's now waiting on action from the House.
You can view SB2674 here.
Emergency calls from up to ten counties can sometimes end up in the hands of dispatchers at the Saline County Sheriff's Office.
"We do all of Saline County," said 911 Director Tracy Felty. "We're contracted to do all of Gallatin County. We actually take wireless calls for Hardin, Pope, and Hamilton Counties."
Felty is in a fight for funding. He's trying to protect a fee on downstate wireless phones.
"It allows you to continue to do some of the operations on your center," said Felty. 
Another organization wants a cut of those fees. The Illinois Poison Center is seeking two cents to go toward its shrinking budget.
"We're getting one and half million dollars less than than we were in 2009," said Dr. Carol DesLauriers. DesLauriers is the Operations Director for Illinois Poison Center. 
The center's leaders estimate a small share of the fees would add up to $2 million dollars a year by 2018. They're threatening to close on July 1st if they don't receive help.
"The poison center manages 80,000 calls every year." said DesLauriers. "About half of them involves children under age six."     
However, 911 operators believe the Poison Center needs to find a different source.
"The biggest thing is we've got to restructure funding across the state," said Felty. 
Cell phones are charged 73 cents a month. Landlines in Saline County are charged a $1.50. As more people get rid of their home phone, local dispatches take a hit.
Until that formula is balanced, Felty doesn't feel there's enough to share.     
"I really think this is a bad precedent that's being set that you've let one agency in," said Felty. "Now where does it stop?"
The fees for phones in Chicago are different than the rest of the state. Wireless phones and land lines there are both charged $2.50 a month.
That's the type of plan Felty believes needs to be done statewide to help the funding situation.
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