Senator Collins Co-Sponsors Bill to Prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Among Women and Children

September is FASD Awareness Month

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins co-sponsored the Advancing FASD Research, Services, and Prevention Act of 2021 (FASD Respect Act). The legislation addresses prenatal substance exposure through early intervention—by providing support through programs and funding for prevention efforts and for individuals and families affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). FASDs include Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND), Neurobehavioral Disorders Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE), and related conditions. 

 

“Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders can cause tremendous harm to a child’s physical, mental, behavioral, and cognitive development,” said Senator Collins. “Amid FASD Awareness Month, this important bill would strengthen federal, state, and local programs and funding to support individuals and families affected by these heartbreaking conditions.  This legislation is critical to protecting the health of mothers and their babies.”

 

“It’s time for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder to come out of the shadows and be recognized as the leading known cause of intellectual disability and birth defects in the U.S. and worldwide,” said Connie Mazelsky, co-founder of FASD Maine.  “We are truly grateful for Senator Collins’ leadership in co-sponsoring the FASD Respect Act. This vital legislation provides a framework and funding so we can improve diagnosis and help our systems of care become FASD-informed to improve the lives of the thousands of Mainers with this lifelong condition.”

 

“FASD is an overlooked crisis affecting millions of children and adults,” said National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) President Tom Donaldson.  “This landmark bill will advance research, increase education, and most importantly provide access to critical services for individuals affected by FASD and offer them long overdue opportunities to succeed. The FASD community thanks Senator Collins for her visionary support in co-sponsoring this FASD legislation to bring much needed focus and resources to a huge societal problem.”

 

The FASD Respect Act recognizes the need to have a comprehensive approach to all prenatal substance and prenatal alcohol exposures as they are a significant health concern to our nation’s children and families. According to the National Vital Statistics, around 18 percent of infants are potentially affected by prenatal exposure to alcohol, binge drinking, or illicit drugs each year. This legislation aims to develop a more collaborative approach across state, tribal and federal governments to support the medical, substance use, child welfare, and educational issues that the mother, infant and family face after being diagnosed with FAS, FASD, or a related condition. Specifically, the bill would create a National Advisory Council on FASD to combat FASD as well as reestablish the Center of Excellence on FASD and related conditions.

 

Specifically, the FASD Respect Act:

 

·         Creates the “National Advisory Council on FASD” consisting of parents, advocates, professional organizations, and experts in the field. The Committee will submit recommendations to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and develop new recommendations for Congress pursuant to the 2009 National FAS Task Force “Call to Action.”

 

·         Directs the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—acting through the Director of the National Institutes of Health and in coordination with the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders—to establish a research agenda for FASD, award grants, and enter into contracts and cooperative agreements with public or private nonprofit entities.

 

·         Creates a program at the Health Resources and Services Administration to build State and Tribal systems to identify, treat, and support individuals with FASD.  Grants will support States and Tribes to develop or update strategic plans to establish or expand FASD-informed clinical services and integrate them into existing systems of care.

 

·         Directs HHS to establish a Center of Excellence to build local, state, tribal and national capacities to prevent the occurrence of FASD—including disorders and birth defects related to combined abuse of alcohol and other substances.  To establish the Center, HHS will award a grant or enter into a cooperative agreement or contract with a public or nonprofit entity with demonstrated expertise in promoting FASD awareness, prevention and intervention services.

 

·         Authorizes the Departments of Education and Justice to address FASD-related issues and provides funding for training of professionals on the recognition and support for those with FASD.

 

Click HERE to read the bill text.


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