Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Prevention Program

Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Carol L. Adams, Ph.D., today announced a federally-funded pilot program to prevent Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). The four-year, $1 million, demonstration project will be conducted in Rockford through the Winnebago County Health Department. The project will target pregnant women enrolled in the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) and Family Case Management programs administered by the Winnebago County Health Department.

"FASD is a birth defect that is 100 percent preventable.  If no woman drinks any alcohol during her entire pregnancy, no child would be born with an FASD," said Adams. "This project provides the opportunity to weave proven strategies into existing services. The goal is a reduction in alcohol exposed children."

FASD is a term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, behavioral, and/or learning disabilities with possible lifelong implications. FASD includes, but is not limited to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are lifelong disorders. There is no cure for an FASD. FASD is often a "hidden" disability.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), as many as 10 percent of pregnant women drank alcohol in the past month. FASD affects at least 40,000 newborns each year in the United States. It is very costly to raise a person with an FASD. Estimates are that it costs $2 million over a lifetime to care for one individual with FAS.

In 2006, the Illinois WIC program served 113,366 pregnant women. Close to seven percent reported drinking alcohol prior to their pregnancy and most report quitting drinking when they learned they were pregnant. A much smaller percentage (1.3 percent) of pregnant WIC participants reported drinking during their pregnancy. The Illinois FASD Prevention Program will provide training to WIC health professionals to assist them in counseling women who continue to drink during pregnancy about the dangers of their behavior and refer them to community resources to help them abstain if necessary.

Initially, the Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) will be the local service organization demonstrating the Illinois FASD Prevention Program. Over the next three years the program will be rolled out statewide to all 100 WIC agencies.

The FASD prevention program will become part of the department's existing WIC and Family Case Management services to pregnant women. Plans for evaluating the project and implementing the model in areas of risk beyond Winnebago County will be among the first tasks of the department in reaching its goal.

"Most women know they should not drink while pregnant and our job is to assist them in making this knowledge a behavior," said J. Maichle Bacon, administrator of the Winnebago County Health Department. "We look forward to working with IDHS to prevent the devastating results of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders."

IDHS is receiving the funding for the project through a subcontract with Northrop Grumman to initiate a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Prevention Program through its Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The Illinois FASD Prevention Program will replicate a brief intervention and counseling program developed by the Los Angeles-based Public Health Foundation Enterprises Management Solutions for their WIC program.