Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Prevention Services Expanded to Become a Statewide Initiative

September 9 is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day

ALBANY, NY (09/08/2010)(readMedia)-- State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) Commissioner Karen M. Carpenter-Palumbo announced today the upstate expansion of an initiative to decrease the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) to include outpatient clinics in Western New York and the Capitol Region.

Project CHOICES is a federally funded and multi-year program for women about choosing healthy behaviors, consisting of four individual counseling sessions for women between the ages of 18 and 44 which is focused on alcohol use and birth control to prevent an alcohol-exposed pregnancy.

Governor David A. Paterson has proclaimed September 9, 2010, as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Day in New York to help raise awareness about FASD, to urge pregnant women not to drink alcohol, and to remind women who are considering becoming pregnant to abstain from alcohol. FASD occurs as a result of an alcohol-exposed pregnancy with the most severe consequences including central nervous system problems, facial malformations and cognitive, behavioral and growth deficiencies.

Governor David A. Paterson said, "The expansion of this initiative supports the critical need to end this tragedy by increasing awareness through education and prevention efforts as well as improving access for women to addiction treatment services throughout our state."

Commissioner Carpenter-Palumbo said, "More than 40,000 infants in our country each year are born with FASD and approximately one in eight women consume alcohol while pregnant. These statistics support the need for more prevention services and support programs that include mental health counseling, domestic violence services, prevention and youth programming."

Since the implementation of Project CHOICES in 2008, the $1.2 million project has grown to include the three newest outpatient programs, Equinox of Albany; Mid-Erie Counseling and Treatment in Cheektowaga; and Northpointe Council, Inc. which have of locations in Lockport, Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda. Palladia, Camelot Counseling and Phoenix House of Long Island began Project Choices during the initial years of the initiative. All of the programs became involved through an application process.

Also in support of FASD initiatives, OASAS participated on the FASD Interagency Workgroup to develop the recently released guidebook, Take A First Look: A Guide for Early Childhood Professionals which addresses Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders from the perspective of early childhood professionals. Early learning professionals have a fundamental role in the overall success of infants and young children who are experiencing developmental challenges. Due to their direct connection to parents and other primary caregivers, evaluative tools and skills, and influence on the child's educational programming, early learning professionals are in a unique position to put solutions into place.

Governor David A Paterson's Addictions Collaborative to Improve Outcomes for New York (ACTION) supports the needs for agencies to work together on addiction issues such as FASD. In late September 2009, the New York State Department of Health (DoH) was awarded multi-year funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to identify children in Western New York (approximately 5 - 10 years old) and examine FAS prevalence using multiple sources; improve existing surveillance capacity to generate FAS prevalence over time; establish/expand relationships with facilities and programs where children with FAS most likely to receive services; evaluate completeness of ascertainment; and implement provider training/education on FASD. The counties identified were: Allegany, Cattaraugus; Chautauqua; Erie; Genesee; Monroe; Niagara; Orleans; and Wyoming.

"FASD is 100 percent preventable and no amount of alcohol whatsoever is safe for consumption during pregnancy," said Commissioner Carpenter-Palumbo. "It is our job to educate all women about the risks of consuming alcohol while pregnant and help them to have healthy babies."

OASAS oversees one of the nation's largest addiction services systems dedicated to Prevention, Treatment and Recovery, with more than 1,550 programs serving over 110,000 New Yorkers on any given day. Through efforts such as the Your Story Matters campaign at www.iamrecovery.com, the agency hopes to foster a movement of recovery, one that sheds the stigma and promotes a life of health and wellness.

Addiction is a chronic disease, but New Yorkers need to know that help and hope is available. Individuals can get help by calling the state's toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day a week HOPEline, 1-877-8-HOPENY, staffed by trained clinicians ready to answer questions, help refer loved ones to treatment and provide other vital resources to facilitate that first step into recovery.

For more information, please visit www.oasas.state.ny.us.

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