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Children's Health

Cutting coal power will save many lives, EPA says

While opponents say the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to reduce carbon emissions will cost jobs and bring higher electric bills, supporters of the proposal have a counter-argument: beneficial health effects.

Dr. LeRoy Graham

Dr. LeRoy Graham

The EPA is holding hearings in Atlanta and three other cities this week on its plan for reducing power plants’ carbon emissions.

Those in favor of the changes say that as coal plants shut down or are replaced with cleaner natural gas, there will be fewer conventional pollutants in the air. Specifically, that means fewer lung-damaging particulates and less ground-level ozone, or smog.

The EPA expects that the resulting cleaner air will mean fewer asthma attacks and hospitalizations, and 2,700 to 6,600 fewer premature deaths per year by 2030.

Dr. LeRoy Graham, a pediatric pulmonologist who practices in the Atlanta area, said Tuesday in a GHN interview that as the carbon “footprint” in the air increases, “people with lung problems are suffering more. The health threats are increasing.’’ full story

Feds to scrutinize Georgia’s Medicaid backlog

A federal agency says it will review Medicaid eligibility and enrollment processes in Georgia and six other states due to “a substantial backlog of pending applications.”

The July 9 letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services does not indicate how much of a backlog Georgia has or the reasons for it.

smslogoThe Georgia review will also cover the state’s PeachCare program for uninsured children.

The other states getting this backlog letter were Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia and Wyoming, according to Inside Health Policy.

(Besides these seven states, CMS had previously notified another six states to submit plans to fix their Medicaid enrollment snags.) full story

DFCS requires overtime to speed up investigations

The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services has ordered mandatory overtime for agency investigators to reduce the state’s backlog in child protection investigations.

On Tuesday, DFCS interim director Bobby Cagle ordered the minimum eight hours overtime per week until the backlog is eliminated. Investigators will be paid at a “time and a half” rate.

Bobby Cagle

Bobby Cagle

DFCS currently has more than 3,300 overdue child protective services investigations. The number is about 48 percent of the state’s current caseload, the agency said.

“Each of these overdue cases represents a potential risk for vulnerable children in our state, and this requires swift action on our part,” Cagle said in a statement. “We must make sure these children are in a safe situation as soon as possible.”

DFCS said that under agency policy, investigations into child safety should be completed within 45 days, unless the circumstances call for more time.

Last month, GHN reported in an article that some metro Atlanta DFCS caseworkers have caseloads of about 100, an unusually high number. full story

A dangerous habit that still haunts baseball

Baseball cards in the 1950s and ’60s featured many players with lumps in their cheeks, as though they were holding marbles in their mouths.

Guys like Rocky Bridges and Nellie Fox were pictured in uniform chewing tobacco, year after year.

Tony Gwynn

Tony Gwynn

Baseball has been plagued by the smokeless stuff since well before Babe Ruth’s time. The Babe himself, a smokeless tobacco user, died of throat cancer at age 53.

So it wasn’t all that surprising when a more recent baseball legend, Tony Gwynn, died Monday of salivary gland cancer, which he attributed to years of chewing tobacco. He was 54.

The Hall of Famer’s death has brought increased attention to the problems associated with the addictive product. And it’s not just baseball players using it.

A recently released CDC-sponsored survey of high school students found that while their cigarette smoking had dropped, 8.8 percent of these teenagers were using smokeless tobacco products – a higher percentage than adults.

In Georgia, 9.5 percent of high schoolers said they currently use it. full story

Feds say drug testing for food stamps violates law

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has officially warned the state that drug testing of applicants for food stamps would violate federal law.

200px-Supplemental_Nutrition_Assistance_Program_logo.svgHouse Bill 772, approved on the final day of the 2014 Georgia legislative session, and signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, requires drug testing of some applicants for food stamps and welfare. It would require people applying for this government assistance to be tested if they raise “reasonable suspicion’’ of illegal drug use.

In a letter dated Tuesday, a USDA official told Georgia Department of Human Services Commissioner Keith Horton that Food and Nutrition Service policy “prohibits states from mandating drug testing of [food stamp] applicants and recipients.”

In a second letter, also dated Tuesday, Food and Nutrition Service regional administrator Robin Bailey informed Horton that the problem of Georgia’s food stamp backlog has been resolved. full story

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