UAA gets funds for alcohol fetal syndrome study

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a problem
all over the nation, but the incidence of
FAS in Alaska is 30 percent higher than
the national average.
According to a survey released in
2002, conducted by the Center for
Disease Control, the state of Alaska had
approximately 45 Fetal Alcohol Spectrum
Disorder births per 30,284 live births
between 1995 and 1997.
FASD is an umbrella term that describes
a range of effects, including physical,
emotional and mental disorders that occur
in individuals whose mothers consumed
alcohol during pregnancy.
To combat these staggering numbers, last
summer the CDC awarded over $1 million
dollars to the Behavioral Health Research
and Services center to open the fi rst Arctic
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Regional
Training Center in Alaska, at UAA. The
grant will be awarded over the next three
years, and is renewable.
Arctic FASD Regional Training Center
manager, Sarah Dewane said the CDC’s
grant was highly competitive, and Alaska
was one of only fi ve states to receive it.
“We received over 40 letters of support
for the new training center, many of them
incredibly moving,” Dewane said. “The
center drew more letters of support than
any other proposal ever written.”
The Arctic FASD RTC opened its doors
on Sept. 30.
Dewane said that the new training
center’s focus is on prevention, referral,
identifi cation and treatment of FASD.
The program also focuses on treatment
to prevent secondary disabilities and
problems that occur when FASD is left
“Education on FASD is especially
important for those within the medical
profession,” Dewane said. “The benefi t of
having such a center at UAA is that it will
have an educational perspective.”
The services of the Arctic FASD RTC
will give special attention to reaching
students in relevant health professions
through work with academic programs
at all UA campuses, Dewane said. It will
involve those in the health profession such
as nurses, physicians, social workers,
psychologists, speech and language
therapists, as well as students in the health
“The center is trying to target medical and
allied health professionals across the state, in
all of its communities,” Dewane said.
Experts on FASD from around the
country will work as consultants for
BHRS on the project, including physicians,
psychologists and social workers.
Dewane said the center’s goal will be
achieved by creating special lectures and
seminars that can be provided and used at
no cost by educators and providers in the
The high FASD rates apply to both rural
and urban areas of Alaska. Dewane said that
no particular region of the state is at fault.
“FASD is a human issue, not specifi cally
any group of people or culture,” Dewane said.
A Stone Soup Group Parent Navigator
and parent of a child with FASD, Sharon
Scott said she was very excited about the
possibilities of the new Arctic RTC.
“I am the parent of a 21-year-old adopted
son, Justin. Because of the high levels of
alcohol he was exposed to, he has severe
cognitive and physical disabilities,” Scott
She said that dealing with service
providers when her son was younger
meant that while she was trying to get him
services, she also had to educate providers
about FASD.
“Our son is a very visible part of the
system, they see that he uses an electronic
voice device, and a wheel chair,” Scott said.
“The real problem is for people who
don’t have any of the visible signs – people
hold them to a much higher standard.”
The training will be important,
especially to those with FASD that are
without physical symptoms, Scott said.