Magazine article The Alcoholism Report

Senate Panel Holds Hearing on FAS

Magazine article The Alcoholism Report

Senate Panel Holds Hearing on FAS

Article excerpt

Senate Panel Holds Hearing on FAS

Citizens are not sufficiently informed about the effects of drinking during pregnancy, according to Senator Tom Dasche (D-SD), who declared that the "American public has not faced up to alcohol's impact on the quality of the lives of our children."

Daschle, presiding at a Dec. 10 hearing on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) by the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Social Security and Family Policy, said a "pregnant woman can permanently impair the young life she carries, and that damage, though irreversible, is 100% preventable."

"I am convinced the American pubic is well aware of the consequences of smoking," the Senator said. "I am convinced the American public knows what can happen when they drink and drive. I am not convinved, however, that the American public is as informed as they should be on the consequences of drinking during pregnancy."

Although Daschle said FAS "has no boundaries, its effects are especially felt" among American Indians. "The rate of FAS on some reservations is seven times the national average," the Senator added.

The hearing included testimony by Christine Lubinski, director for public policy of the National Council on Alcholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), who noted that there has been recent attention in the media to the "tragic story" of maternal drug addiction, and added:

"What has been missing from the media, and from the national 'War on Drugs' in general, is attention to the nation's most serious drug problem -- alcohol and alcohol-related birth defects."

Lubinski said that alcohol "unlike ellicit drugs, is widely available, inexpensive and heavily promoted to women. Because of the integration of drinking into American life as well as the depiction of alcohol in ads ad appealing, sexy and benign, we must be vigilant in our efforts to educate all Americans, and especially pregnant women, about the grave health risks associated with drinking.

"If the long-term consequences of in utero cocaine exposure are still unclear, the impact of alcohol exposure on human development is all too clear," the NCADD official told the subcommittee. "Mental retardation, heart and limb abnormalities, profoundly limited analytical abilities and poor judgment are just a few of the deficits faced by FAS children and their families over the course of a lifetime. In addition, alcohol-affected children are themselves at high risk for the development of alcoholism, triggering an intergenerational cycle of addiction which may haunt a family for decades."

Among other steps, Lubinski called for:

* Enacting a Medicaid family care proposed to support long-term residential treatment services for pregnant alcoholic and drug dependent women and their children, like that proposed in legislation by Senator Daniel Moynihan (D-NY) in the last Congress.

* Funding treatment initiatives for Native American pregnant and postpartum women and their children, as well as treatment and other health services for alcoholic and drug dependent women in prison.

* Strenthening the accountability mechanisms in the women's set-aside in the alcohol, drug abuse and mental health services (ADMS) block grant, which requires that states spend 10% of thier allocation on new and expanded prevention and treatment services for alcoholic and drug dependent women. …

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