The legislation would advance research, prevention, and services

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) reintroduced legislation to authorize programs and funding to aid people and families affected by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs), and related conditions. Specifically, the bill would create an Interagency Coordinating Committee to combat FASDs as well as reestablish the Center of Excellence on FASDs. For the first time, the legislation will also address prenatal exposure to other substances, including opioids.

According to the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, an estimated 15 percent of infants are affected by prenatal alcohol or illicit drug exposure each year. Those infants—which have been exposed to prenatal substance abuse but do not receive the appropriate treatment and developmental support—are at high risk of ongoing mental, emotional, and even physical challenges. Although there has been heightened awareness of FASDs since the 1990s, there continues to be a national shortage of diagnostic clinics and resources for those with FASDs. This legislation aims to develop a more collaborative approach across the federal government to support the medical, substance use, child welfare, and educational issues that the mother, infant, and family face after being diagnosed with an FASD or a related condition.

“As the top prosecutor for Minnesota’s largest county, I saw firsthand the long-term effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol and other substances and the devastation it caused families and communities. That’s why Senator Murkowski and I are working together to pass bipartisan legislation to support people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and their families while working to help prevent FASD in the first place,” Klobuchar said.

“Alaska faces some of the highest rates of FASD in the nation. And while the effects—physical, mental, and behavioral—may be incurable, FASD is completely preventable. We also know that the epidemic of opioid and substance abuse has wreaked havoc in Alaska, impacting entire communities, families, and unfortunately, even pregnant mothers. It is a heartbreaking and unfortunate reality, but it is important to know that this legislation approaches the issue of prenatal substance abuse with a broader scope than in years past,” Murkowski said. “Alongside Senator Klobuchar, I am proud to continue building on my years-long effort to bolster research, raise awareness, and increase resources to help protect future generations of Alaskans.”

“The FASD community thanks Senators Murkowski and Klobuchar for leading the charge to enact this bipartisan FASD legislation to bring much needed focus and resources to a huge societal problem. Over two decades ago, while Minnesota’s First Lady and a Juvenile Court Judicial Officer, I became convinced that the numbers of children born with FASD was a crisis affecting each and every one of us that, we as a nation, had failed to make a priority. S. 2879 confronts this crisis,” said Susan Shepard Carlson, National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) Legislative and Policy Chair. “Existing FASD prevention efforts and services are too fragmented among federal, state, and local approaches. This new legislation provides a structure to develop well-informed public policy on FASD and creates a clear, ongoing societal commitment to advancing research and ensuring essential services for persons with FASD and their families.”

“Improving the recognition, services and supports available to individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and the families who care for these individuals is a critical public health need. This condition has been historically under-recognized and underserved. This bill provides essential support needed to improve surveillance, clinical care, and research to address this public health problem. This bill will go a long way towards advancing the care of individuals with FASD to reduce the secondary disabilities and family stress often experienced by their loved ones. We are personally very excited by the broad scope of supports included in this proposal for individuals throughout the lifespan with this condition and encourage others to support this legislation,” said Julie Kable, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine.

For a one-pager on the bill, click here.

For the full text of the bill, click here.