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October 08, 2021

King Cosponsors Bipartisan Bill to Address Pressing Infant Health Issue

FASD Maine welcomes his support of FASD Respect Act seeks to reduce Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senator Angus King cosponsored a bipartisan bill to address prenatal substance exposure and improve infant health. The Advancing FASD Research, Services, and Prevention Act of 2021 (FASD Respect Act), would assist early prenatal intervention by providing support to prevention efforts and for individuals and families affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) is also a co-sponsor of this legislation. According to the National Vital Statistics, around 18% of infants are potentially affected by prenatal exposure to alcohol, binge drinking, or illicit drugs each year.

“Nearly 20% of infants born in America are affected by prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol – it’s an urgent, often unrecognized, public health crisis,” said Senator King. “This legislation would significantly increase support for mothers and families at risk for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, and invest in vital, lifesaving preventive efforts. Every child deserves a chance to live a happy, healthy life; the FASD Respect Act would be a major step towards making this a reality.”

“The time has come for Maine to recognize and address the hidden public health crisis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder,” said Madonna Mooney, a co-founder of FASD Maine. “The FASD Respect Act creates a structure to develop a FASD-informed public health policy. This legislation provides funding to radically improve Maine’s access to diagnostic and therapeutic services. Senator King has an excellent record of supporting families affected by substance use and we truly appreciate his co-sponsorship of this potentially life-changing legislation."

This legislation will develop a more collaborative approach across state, tribal and federal governments to support the medical, substance use, child welfare, and educational issues that the mother, infant and family face after being diagnosed with FASD or a related condition. The bill would create a National Advisory Council on FASD to combat FASD as well as reestablish the Center of Excellence on FASD and related conditions.

Specifically, the FASD Respect Act would:

·       Create the “National Advisory Council on FASD” consisting of parents, advocates, professional organizations, and experts in the field. The Committee will submit recommendations to the Nation al Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and develop new recommendations for Congress pursuant to the 2009 National FAS Task Force “Call to Action.”

·       Direct the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)— acting through the Director of the National Institutes of Health and in coordination with the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders—to establish a research agenda for FASD, award grants, and enter into contracts and cooperative agreements with public or private nonprofit entities.

·       Create a program at the Health Resources and Services Administration to build State and Tribal systems to identify, treat, and support individuals with FASD. Grants will support States and Tribes to develop or update strategic plans to establish or expand FASD-informed clinical services and integrate them into existing systems of care.

·       Direct HHS to establish a Center of Excellence to build local, state, tribal and national capacities to prevent the occurrence of FASD—including disorders and birth defects related to combined abuse of alcohol and other substances. To establish the Center, HHS will award a grant or enter into a cooperative agreement or contract with a public or nonprofit entity with demonstrated expertise in promoting FASD awareness, prevention and intervention services.

·       Authorize the Departments of Education and Justice to address FASD-related issues and provides funding for training of professionals on the recognition and support for those with FASD.

Senator King has long supported efforts to improve infant and maternal health care. He cosponsored the Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services (Rural MOMS) Act, a bipartisan bill that would improve data collection, expand services, and award funding to help ensure that new and expecting moms living in rural communities get the care they need. He also recently secured a $6.1 million grant to improve the health of Maine children.

The full text of the bill can be found here.

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