Fast, free, expert help 24×7×365 1‑800‑222‑1222


The California Poison Control System (CPCS) is the largest single provider of poison control services in the United States and California’s primary source for treatment advice and information in case of poison exposure for both residents and health professionals.

  • Services are free, operate 24/7, and interpreters are available at all times for over 100 languages.
  • The CPCS manages over 330,000 calls annually (~900 per day).
  • Poison control saves California over $70 million in health care costs and averts an estimated 61,000 emergency department visits annually.

Five toll-free help lines

  • Public Hotline
  • Medical Consultation Line
  • 9-1-1
  • Speech and Hearing Impaired TTY Line
  • Public Education Line

Special services include

  • 24-hour interpreter service for over 100 languages
  • HazMat
  • Public health and pesticide surveillance
  • Company contracts

One of California’s most efficient services

  • Every $1 spent on poison control services saves an estimated $7 in medical spending. This 7:1 cost-benefit ratio is more than three times that of child safety seats, smoke detectors, or bicycle helmets.
  • 94 cents of every dollar of state funding is applied to program services.
  • Calls are handled quickly, accurately, professionally and free-of-charge all over the state 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

How does it work?

All our call responders are trained health care professionals with many years of valuable experience handling poison cases. Each division uses identical telephones, computers, computer programs and databases, recording systems, and automatic call distribution systems. They use uniform protocols and guidelines and have identical health education materials. The result is consistent, quality poison information for the entire state.

Essential to California

  • Real-time detection and surveillance for emergent health events such as pandemic flu, and during CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives) threats.
  • A medical staff available 24/7 to expertly manage infectious diseases, radiation exposures, chemical spills, pesticide and hazardous materials incidents with the most current medical expertise.
  • Free 24/7 access to medical experts for all residents. For vulnerable and non-English speaking communities, CPCS experts may provide the only access to a medical professional.
  • Tailored poison prevention programs and materials distributing nearly 1 million educational materials to consumers in 10 languages throughout California’s 58 counties.


All CPCS operating funds come from sources outside of the University with substantial in-kind support from UCSF and host institutions.

  • The California Poison Control System’s (CPCS) annual operating budget is $11.3 million.
  • FY 10-11 California State General Fund allocation for poison control is $2.95 million.
  • Poison control funding was eliminated from the Governor’s FY09-10 budget, but restored at 50% by the Budget Conference Committee and signed into the FY09-10 state budget.
  • After a financial crisis which brought the service to within a month of closing permanently in December 2009, federal matching funds were secured through a state children’s health program. The match is conditional to continued State General Fund contribution. It is imperative that the $2.95 million General Fund allocation be preserved in order to obtain match funding and continue services.
  • In addition, CPCS receives direct funding from the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) as art of the Poison Enhancement and Awareness Act and has several fee-for-service contracts.


The CPCS is part of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy in the School of Pharmacy at University of California, San Francisco. It is responsible to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority.

Which division will I most likely reach?

California map showing which counties are served by which divisions of poison control


For decades, there have been many poison centers in California, each with its own phone number and individual way of providing service for a small area.

In 1997, a new system for providing uniform poison services for the entire state was developed. The Department of Clinical Pharmacy in the School of Pharmacy at University of California, San Francisco began administering the California Poison Control System (CPCS). The CPCS combined the services of four smaller poison centers:

Division name


Sacramento Division

University of California, Davis, Medical Center

San Francisco Division

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center

Fresno/Madera Division

Children’s Hospital Central California

San Diego Division

University of California, San Diego, Medical Center

Background and operations

  • The California Poison Control System (CPCS) is the statewide provider of immediate, free and expert treatment advice and assistance over the telephone in case of exposure to poisonous, hazardous or toxic substances. The CPCS is accessible to consumers and medical professionals, toll-free, 24/7, 365 days a year.
  • Created in 1997, the CPCS consolidated operations, established collective treatment guidelines, instituted common management practices, and brought financial stability to a previously fragmented, unaffiliated collection of regional poison centers with operations dating back to the 1950’s.
  • Since 1997, the CPCS has managed nearly 1,800,000 cases.
  • Creation of the CPCS resulted in a net decrease of cost for poison control services in California. The CPCS is administered by the University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy and responsible to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA).
  • Operates under one administration and medical advisory panel with sites at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, San Francisco General Hospital in San Francisco, Central California Children’s Hospital in Fresno/Madera, and UC San Diego Medical Center in San Diego.
  • The CPCS is accredited by the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

Mission statement

To protect the health of Californians by providing immediate, uninterrupted, high-quality emergency telephone advice for poison exposures and to serve as the primary resource for poison education, prevention, and treatment in California.