International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day will be observed in Southeast Alaska this year on Friday. For 11 years, International FASD Awareness Day has been observed starting at 9:09 a.m. around the world, through each of the time zones, from New Zealand to Alaska.
FASD is a term used to describe more than 250 conditions that happen to children whose mothers drank alcohol during pregnancy. This group of disorders includes fetal alcohol syndrome, fetal alcohol effects, alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder and alcohol-related birth defects, among others. Children born with FASD can experience life-long physical, mental, behavioral and learning disabilities. It is common for children born with FASD to later experience school difficulties, juvenile delinquency, unemployment and crime.
Alaska has the nation’s highest rate of FASD at 16.3 children per 1,000 births, and 1.5 children born with FAS per 1,000 births. That means about 160 children are born with FASD in Alaska each year, and about 15 of them have FAS. The McDowell Group estimates it costs as much as $3.1 million over the course of a lifetime to care for someone who is born with FASD.
“There is no safe amount of alcohol to drink at any time during pregnancy,” said Gayle Young, SEARHC Neurodevelopmental Team Coordinator for the SEARHC Haa Toowóo Náakw Hít Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic in Sitka. “Each time a pregnant woman drinks, her baby drinks too.”
This year, Alaska’s FASD Awareness Day observances will focus on honoring pregnant women making healthy choices. In communities throughout the state, including Juneau, local restaurants are providing free non-alcoholic beverages to pregnant women on Sept. 9.
Informational interviews about FASD can be heard on KCAW-Raven Radio’s Morning Edition show at 8:18 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 8, and on KIFW-AM’s Problem Corner show at 11:35 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 7. Also, the Sitka FASD Support Group is hosting a FASD Awareness and Support Reception from 6:30-8 p.m. at Harrigan Centennial Hall. This event is for families with FASD-affected members and Sitka residents who want to learn more about how to support them. Members from the SEARHC FASD Diagnostic Team will be in attendance to provide information about FASD.
For more information, contact Gayle Young at 966-8815. SEARHC will have a display with FASD information the week of Sept. 9 at its Ethel Lund Medical Center in Juneau and there will be informational displays at reception in Sitka.