SITKA - International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day will be observed in Sitka this year on Wednesday, Sept. 9. For more than 10 years, 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."
Starting on Aug. 30, FASD Awareness Day posters will be posted on community bulletin boards throughout Sitka. Short media messages will run on local radio stations leading up to FASD Awareness Day on Sept. 9, as with a longer informational interview on KIFW's Problem Corner show at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8. At the Sept. 8 Sitka Assembly meeting, Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams will issue a city proclamation reminding Sitka residents that FASD is entirely preventable and abstaining from alcohol during the nine months of pregnancy can prevent these debilitating disorders. Informational posters also will be placed in participating restaurants and lounges leading up to FASD Awareness Day, and several establishments will offer pregnant women and their escorts free non-alcoholic beverages on Wednesday, Sept. 9.
Community members who want to learn more about FASD are invited to attend the "Dessert and Conversation" gathering from 6-8 p.m. on Sept. 8 at Blatchley Middle School library. Community members who have lived with both young and grown children experiencing FASD will be available to talk about their experiences and answer questions. Anyone interested in FASD and how to support children and adults with these disorders is invited to attend.
For information about FASD prevention, screening and treatment, please contact Gayle Young at 907-966-8815 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about International FASD Awareness Day, go to http://www.fasday.com.