Sept. 5, 2012
-- SAN DIEGO, CA - It is thought that the most severe form of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), is the most common recognizable cause of mental retardation. However, resources for those diagnosed with an FASD are often not readily available in the U.S. and most places throughout the world. That will soon change in Southern California as a new chapter of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) launches in San Diego.
CalFAS was one of the original affiliates of NOFAS, first becoming organized in California in 2003. After a few years of inactivity, the group is back with a focus on Southern California in partnership with UC San Diego and Rady Children's Hospital. The SoCal NOFAS chapter will be housed at UC San Diego’s Center For The Promotion of Maternal Health and Infant Development on the Rady Children’s Hospital campus as part of the Center’s new FASD public clinic.
“With the opening of the SoCal NOFAS chapter in San Diego, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are going to be on the radar, and we are going to be able to offer resources to families as well as support for pregnant women who are trying to stop drinking,” said Peggy Combs-Way, SoCal NOFAS president, and mother to a daughter diagnosed with FAS. “I know how these parents feel when they suspect their child might have an FASD,” she said. “It’s devastating, and even more so if you don’t have the services readily available to diagnose and treat the child.”
FASD Awareness Day has been recognized on the ninth day of September every year since 1999. The ninth was chosen as a reminder for women to abstain from drinking alcohol during the nine months of pregnancy. In addition, proclamations are issued in countries, states, provinces, and towns all around the world. Bells are rung at 9:09 a.m. in every time zone from New Zealand to Alaska. People all around the world gather for events to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy and the challenges of individuals and families who struggle with FASD.
Despite the public education efforts, FASD is still largely under-recognized throughout the world, said Combs-Way. For this reason, many children who are affected by prenatal exposure to alcohol may not be accessing needed services such as therapy and educational programs. “We need to focus attention on this important maternal and child health issue so that we can improve our strategies for prevention – if women avoid alcohol in pregnancy, their children will not have an FASD,” she added.
Short-term goals of the new chapter include building a network of "experts" in all professional circles, including the health care and juvenile justice systems, social services and substance abuse treatment programs. “In the long-term, we hope to host conferences with national speakers, monthly support meetings for parents, and training sessions for health care providers and members of the community.”
A website for the chapter will soon be available at SoCalNOFAS.org. Those interested in learning more about its national parent affiliate are encouraged to visit NOFAS.org.