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We’re a fully confidential medical service. (Call center) staff are highly-trained professionals who undergo rigorous training for two years in order to provide the best medical advice that they can.

—Dr. Cyrus Rangan, Assistant Medical Director, California Poison Control System

History of California Poison Control System

The California Poison Control System (CPCS) was founded in 1997, to centralize poisoning advice and prevention services in California. Serving all Californians through a single, toll free number, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, CPCS is the largest single provider of poison control services in the United States and leads the state as the primary resource for poison education, prevention, and treatment for the general public and health care professionals. Our mission is to prevent an increase in non-fatal poisonings and poisoning deaths, in conjunction with saving Californians millions of dollars in unnecessary health care cost.

Since inception, CPCS has received over six million calls, many of which have averted tragedies and saved lives. Our program’s success can be attributed to our specially trained toxicologists, who have prior education and training as physicians, pharmacists or nurses.

Poison Hotline Operations

CPCS operates as a single virtual call center, though maintains four divisions located in southern, central and northern California. Divisions use uniform protocols and guidelines to provide free, immediate, high-quality emergency telephone advice for poison exposures, to the public and medical professionals. Geographical redundancy across the state allows CPCS to provide services uninterrupted, in the event of natural disasters affecting one, two or three divisions.

Health Education Program

The CPCS Health Education Program develops and implements innovative materials and programs, to prevent poisonings and raise awareness of CPCS and its services. Strategies include: creating new health educational tools for the public and at-risk populations, from a culturally and linguistically sensitive point of view; establishing key partnerships with community-based organizations and other stakeholders, who carry out poison prevention initiatives within targeted communities; distributing free health literature to all of California; and conducting public presentations on various poison prevention topics.


CPCS supports teaching and research, in collaboration with the University of California and our partners.

Poison Hotline for the General Public

  • Free poison treatment advice and info provided by highly trained health care professionals.
  • Access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for callers anywhere in California. Call 1-800-222-1222 anytime to obtain expert treatment advice and consultation for poison exposures.
  • Interpreter services are available in over 200 languages. Call 1-800-222-1222 and state your preferred language to receive uninterrupted poison treatment services.
  • Services for the deaf and hearing impaired offered through the California Relay Service.

Poison Hotline for Health Professionals

  • Medical Consultation Line: California health professionals can call a dedicated, toll-free number for access to CPCS health professionals to assist with patient care. 9-1-1 dispatchers obtain access through their dedicated phone line to assist with emergency calls to 911 in California as needed.
  • General Info and Public Education: General info, ordering of educational materials, and videos and topics of interest regarding poison prevention, education, and outreach.
  • Poisoning Info for Health Care Professionals.

Special Services

  • Incidents involving dangerous goods (aka HazMat)
  • Public health and pesticide surveillance
  • Company contracts
  • Real-time detection and surveillance for emergent health events such as pandemic flu and during chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) threats.
  • Medical staff available 24/7 to expertly manage infectious diseases, radiation exposures, chemical spills, and pesticide and hazardous materials incidents with the most current medical expertise.

Administration and Funding

CPCS is part of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy School of Pharmacy, at the University of California, San Francisco. CPCS both functions as a discrete, clinical business unit, to deliver poison prevention services in California, and also supports the teaching and research missions of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and the School of Pharmacy.

CPCS is accredited by the American Association of Poison Control Centers and is regulated by the California Emergency Medical Services Authority. Federal grant and state contracts provide core funding for CPCS services. Federal matching funds are secured through the state children’s health program with the match conditional to continued state general fund contributions. CPCS also receives funding from the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) Poison Control Program and has several fee-for-service contracts. In-kind contributions are provided by:

Related Topics

Masters of Poison, UCSF Magazine

Learn more about the California Poison Control System. Read the Masters of Poison article in UC San Francisco Magazine.


Poison Control, Radiolab

Poison Centers are nationwide. Listen to the Radiolab episode "Poison Control."