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About Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause permanent birth defects. No amount of alcohol use is known to be safe for a developing fetus. Alcohol is a teratogen, an agent or factor which causes malformation of an embryo. According to a recent study as many as 1 in 20 children in the United States are affected by prenatal alcohol exposure. Many professionals working in the field expect that that number is doubled in Alaska.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are costly, life-long disabilities. Individuals, their families and the public as a whole are deeply impacted. The lifetime cost for one individual with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in 2002 was estimated to be $2 million. This is an average for people with FAS and does not include data on people with other FASD. People with severe problems, such as profound intellectual disability, have much higher costs. It is estimated that the cost to the United States for FAS alone is over $6 billion in direct and indirect costs annually. Once again, the costs are much higher in Alaska where prevalence is expected to be higher than the national average.

Individuals with an FASD are involved with the criminal justice system at an alarming rate. Youth and adults with an FASD have a form of brain damage that may make it difficult for them to stay out of trouble with the law. They do not know how to deal with police, attorneys, judges, social workers, psychiatrists, corrections and probation officers, and others they may encounter.

FASD is a PREVENTABLE disability. To date, most prevention strategies have focused on educating women of reproductive years. Although this is a critical component, evidence informs that FASD programs must be comprehensive and multi-tiered to be effective.

The State of Alaska Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Program

The FASD Program located in the Office of Substance Misuse and Addiction Prevention manages the state-funded community-based diagnostic teams and coordinates the efforts performed by state, community and tribal stakeholders operationalizing a five year strategic action plan on FASD convened by the Governor’s Council on Special Education and Developmental Disabilities.

Vision
  • The prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is reduced and individuals who experience FASD and their caregivers are empowered to reach their unique and full potential.
  • Through education, prevention, and provision of quality, relevant supports and services.
  • Alaska is a FASD- informed state.
Goals
  • Raise awareness of FASD, a range of neurodevelopmental (brain-based) disabilities that can affect any person exposed to alcohol before birth.
  • Reduce the incidence of alcohol-exposed pregnancies.
  • Address the stigma associated with FASD by educating Alaskans to understand the complexities of the disability in a way that honors the strengths of those impacted, to promote an inclusive, accepting culture.
  • Reduce the co-occurrence of childhood trauma and FASD by increasing supports for high-risk families, building resilience, and improving access to treatment for early childhood trauma.
  • Define and promote FASD-informed care in Alaska.
  • Develop recommendations for appropriate services, supports and education for individuals and families with FASD to increase self-advocacy, prevent crises, and reduce adverse outcomes, such as substance misuse, incarceration, and suicide.
Priorities
  • Prevention
  • Diagnoses & Screening
  • Workforce Development
  • Outreach & Engagement
  • Education
  • (Supports and Services) Systems Transformation & Navigation
Activities include
  • Diagnostic team coordination, assessment and evaluation for sustainability
  • Case management program assessment, evaluation and redesign
  • Educational trainings, curriculum assessment and development
  • Professional and community outreach through ongoing presentations, events and workshops.
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Surveillance of services and supports for FASD affected individuals and their caregivers
  • Resource mobilization for priority areas including budget management, stakeholder volunteer coordination, and skills training.
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FASD Resources

Basic Facts

  • Alcohol Use in Pregnancy
    Women who are pregnant or who may be pregnant should not drink alcohol. This includes women who are trying to get pregnant and women who are at risk of becoming pregnant because they do not use effective contraception (birth control).
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
    Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can include physical problems and problems with behavior and learning.