Alaska Senators Introduce Bill to Advance Research in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

WASHINGTON, DC—Today U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Begich (D-AK), Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Daniel Inouye (D-HI) introduced The Advancing FASD Research, Prevention, and Services Act to improve research, prevention, and services for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).  FASD is an umbrella term that describes a range of physical and mental birth defects that can occur in a fetus when a pregnant woman drinks alcohol.  Alcohol exposure during pregnancy is a leading cause of non-hereditary cognitive disability. 

“Alaska is doing well in the fight against FASD, but this is clearly an instance where just being ‘good’ isn’t good enough,” said Sen. Murkowski, lead Republican co-sponsor of the bill.  “I’m proud to co-sponsor this important, comprehensive bill, because education is a key component, but not the only component.  Whether in small town or urban America, this bill also provides a support system for state and community outreach that deals with alcoholism head-on.”

“Alaska’s fetal alcohol syndrome rate fell 32 percent between 1996-2002 in no small part from efforts like this bill,” said Sen. Begich.  “The Advancing FASD Research, Prevention, and Services Act would continue to authorize funds through 2017 for the needed research, surveillance  and education to prevent this spectrum of disorders and help children and adults afflicted with the disease live a full and healthy life. I am pleased to stand with my colleagues today to introduce this important measure to help keep families in Alaska and across the country aware of the risks of FAS.”

“This disease is entirely preventable, and yet it is estimated that nearly 8,000 South Dakotans are living with FASD,” said Sen. Johnson. “While there is no known cure, the bill we introduced today seeks a balance between directing and coordinating federal resources to prevention activities and to services for individuals living with FASD and their families.”

The legislation would:

  • Require the National Institutes of Health to develop a research agenda for the diagnosis, prevention and intervention of FASD
  • Authorizes federal grants for pilot projects to determine and implement the best practices for educating children with FASD within the school system
  • Directs NIH to conduct support activities to integrate case definitions into clinical practice, thereby improving surveillance activities, and to provide health care workers and others with resources to reduce alcohol-exposed pregnancies
  • Authorizes development and broadcast of national public service announcements to raise public awareness of the risks associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy

Funding would also be authorized to improve interventions and services for individuals with FASD who are incarcerated or otherwise involved in the justice system.

Federal grants would also be authorized for states, tribes, tribal organizations and other non-profit organizations to develop support services such as vocational training, housing assistance, and medication monitoring services for adults with the disease. 

People affected with these disorders face numerous medical, physical, educational, and financial challenges.  Difficulties can include severe learning disabilities, physical abnormalities, costly medical bills, and behavioral impairments. Diagnoses under the FASD umbrella include Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Alcohol-Related Birth Defects and Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder.