News from the Alaska State Legislature, the Office of Senator Kelly
For Immediate Release: April 09, 2018

Senate Approves Bill to Curb Prenatal Alcohol & Drug Exposure

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JUNEAU – The Alaska Senate today passed a bill to help curb the epidemic of prenatal drug and alcohol exposure in Alaska.

SB 198 directs the University of Alaska Anchorage Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies (CAAS) to conduct a study evaluating the effectiveness of providing long-acting, reversible contraception to high-risk women, with the goal of improving health outcomes and preventing prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol.

Alaska has one the highest rates of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) in the nation; approximately 120 children are diagnosed with FASDs every year. Each child born with the disorder will cost the state between $860,000 and $4.2 million from birth to age 18, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

In 2013, Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks), created a think-tank of Alaskans to address the problem of FASDs in Alaska. The group known as “Empowering Hope” directed its efforts at defeating FASDs, not merely coping with their effects.

Alaska is also plagued by a growing rate of maternal opioid use, which has resulted in a drastic increase in babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). NAS occurs when a child suffers withdrawal symptoms after the discontinued use of addictive drugs. The rate of children born with this syndrome in Alaska increased over 500 percent between 2004 to 2015.

“The progress we are seeing on preventing prenatal alcohol and drug exposure is encouraging,” said Sen. Kelly, the bill’s sponsor. “It’s beginning to get the attention of clinical researchers from around the U.S. and even internationally. This bill brings together the efforts of our research community, and Empowering Hope and groups like it, to change lives for the better.”

As the premier addiction research unit within Alaska’s public university system, CAAS is the ideal partner to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of providing Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) to women involved in the Neonatal Abstinence Evaluation Support Treatment (NEST) program, with the goal of improving health outcomes and prevent further drug and alcohol exposure in children.

SB 198 passed the Senate by a vote of 19 to 1 and is now on its way to the Alaska House of Representatives for consideration.  

For more information, contact Senate Majority Press Secretary Daniel McDonald at (907) 465-4066.

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