Marijuana legalization now in effect in Washington state; Medical teams provide mental health care after Hurricane Sandy; and California leads in new experiment for managing Medicaid and Medicare health care costs. Read these and more public health news stories for Dec. 6, 2012.

Time – Smokers celebrate as Wash. legalizes marijuana
The crowds of happy people lighting joints under Seattle’s Space Needle early Thursday morning with nary a police officer in sight bespoke the new reality: Marijuana is legal under Washington state law.
Hundreds gathered at Seattle Center for a New Year’s Eve-style countdown to 12 a.m., when the legalization measure passed by voters last month took effect. When the clock struck, they cheered and sparked up in unison.

New York Times – States cut antismoking outlays despite record tobacco revenue
Faced with tight budgets, states have spent less on tobacco prevention over the past two years than in any period since the national tobacco settlement in 1998, despite record high revenues from the settlement and tobacco taxes, according to a report to be released on Thursday.
States are on track to collect a record $25.7 billion in tobacco taxes and settlement money in the current fiscal year, but they are set to spend less than 2 percent of that on prevention, according to the report, by theCampaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which compiles the revenue data annually. The figures come from state appropriations for the fiscal year ending in June.

Huffington Post – Psychological first aid: Mental health care after Hurricane Sandy
On a recent Friday, a psychiatrist and a team of medical students traveled to the Far Rockaways in Queens to provide mental health assistance to survivors of Hurricane Sandy. Their work did not involve psychotherapy sessions and diagnoses but rather tending to the immediate needs of survivors.
The medical team arrived in response to a request from “Occupy Sandy Relief,” an outgrowth of Occupy Wall Street formed to help survivors of the hurricane.

San Francisco Chronicle – Carcinogen found in children’s products
Nap mats, changing pads and crib mattress pads may be comfortable places for infants to rest, but some contain dangerous levels of a known carcinogen, a local watchdog group has found.
The Center for Environmental Health in Oakland said Thursday it is taking legal action against major national retailers, including Toys R Us, Target and Walmart, to force them to stop selling foam products that contain levels of chlorinated Tris that exceed those permitted by California law.

USA Today – Medicare-Medicaid experiment aims to save on care
It is usually after the mail arrives that Della Saavedra comes undone.
That’s when she sits in her living room in this Los Angeles suburb and sorts through the latest round of letters from her health plan, each rejecting her appeal to stay with her trusted oncologist at City of Hope, a cancer center.
For as long as she can remember, Saavedra, 53, a former cafeteria worker who suffers from bone marrow cancer, has been insured through Medicaid, the joint federal-state program for low-income people. For most of that time, she could go to any doctor willing to take her, but last year, the state revamped the program and assigned her to a managed care plan with a restricted network of doctors. Her oncologist is not on its roster.




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