PUBLISHED: 5:21 PM on Wednesday, September 3, 2008
SEARHC honors FASD Awareness
SITKA - International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day is Sept. 9. The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Behavioral Health Department would like to remind people that FASD is 100-percent preventable.

FASD is an umbrella term for a variety of conditions that happen to children whose mothers drank alcohol during pregnancy. The effects of FASD can cause physical, mental, behavioral and/or learning disabilities with lifelong implications, such as school failure, juvenile delinquency, homelessness, unemployment, mental illness and crime.

FASD effects happen early in the pregnancy, and many women don't realize they are pregnant until they are six or more weeks in. For example, FAS facial features (small eyes, smooth philtrum, thin upper lip) are formed within the first 18-21 days, Juneau FASD Diagnostic Clinic Coordinator Ric Iannolino said. Not every child exposed to alcohol develops FAS, but prenatal drinking can lead to a variety of other behavioral problems among children.

"There is no safe amount of alcohol any time during pregnancy," said Marilyn Lande, SEARHC Neurodevelopmental Team Coordinator for the SEARHC Haa Toowóo Náakw Hít Behavioral Health Clinic in Sitka. "If you are pregnant, don't drink. If you drink, don't get pregnant."

Each year more than 40,000 babies are born in the U.S. with FASD, costing the nation about $4 billion, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In Alaska, the rate of FAS in Alaska Natives and American Indians is 5.6 per 1,000 live births, compared to the state's overall FAS figure of 1.5 per 1,000 births.

For more information about FASD prevention, screening and treatment please contact Marilyn Lande at 966-8815 or To learn more about the Juneau FASD Diagnostic Clinic, run by the Central Council of the Tlingít and Haida Indians of Alaska, which hosts monthly clinics at the SEARHC Ethel Lund Medical Center, contact Ric Iannolino at or 463-7373 or visit For more info about FASD Awareness Day, go to