BY CHRIS PFITZER, DHHS OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS
Governor Pat McCrory proclaimed Sept. 9 as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day in North Carolina, calling attention to the umbrella term that includes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and is the only preventable cause of intellectual disabilities.
Caused by women drinking alcohol while pregnant, it can include a range of effects. An estimated 40,000 infants born each year in the United States have FASD, which can cause birth defects, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, attention deficits and behavior disorders.
“FASD impacts one of every 100 babies born,” said Dave Richard, director of the DHHS’s Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (DMH/DD/SAS). “The result for those children is a lifetime of difficulties that may include disrupted school experience, juvenile delinquency, homelessness, mental health and substance abuse issues, unemployment, and even criminal behavior.”
There are two principle categories of women that drink while pregnant - women who lack the correct information about the dangers of drinking while pregnant and those with substance use disorders. A third category is that of women who are not aware they are pregnant when they decide to drink alcohol.
“All of these disorders are 100 percent preventable,” said Janice White, program coordinator for the Fetal Alcohol Prevention Program at DMH/DD/SAS. “By raising awareness of this issue we hope to reduce the number of children that are affected by this avoidable condition.”
In North Carolina, prevention activities include raising awareness and dispelling commonly held myths about drinking while pregnant, North Carolina also has numerous substance abuse initiatives geared toward women and children.
Two statewide programs, the N.C. Perinatal and Maternal Substance Abuse Initiative and CASAWORKS for Families are nationally recognized approaches to the many social and health challenges associated with family addiction.
The month of September is National Recovery Month, a celebration of the gains made by those in recovery from mental health or substance abuse disorders, just as we would those who are managing other health conditions. Recovery Month is in its 24th year. It began as TreatmentWorks! Month, which honored the work of treatment professionals in the field. Over time its focus has shifted to the accomplishments of individuals in recovery.