Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/08/1993 03:00 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HCR 7 - ALCOHOL-RELATED BIRTH DEFECTS AWARENESS Number 030 REP. IRENE NICHOLIA testified as PRIME SPONSOR of the resolution. She read a sponsor statement, which is on file in the committee room. In summary, she said HCR 7 was an attempt to inform the public about the problem of babies born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) or Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE), and the rates in which Alaska leads the nation. Such defects cost society as a whole in health care expenses. The individuals involved are hurt because their development is retarded. She said the problem is preventable. Information is the first step toward prevention, and resolutions such as hers are a first step toward greater public information. Number 071 ERMALEE HICKEL, ALASKA'S FIRST LADY, testified in Juneau in support of HCR 7. She said alcohol-related birth defects, which are preventable, are a leading cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities; cost the state in health care costs; are not limited to any one social group; and represent a growing problem in the state. She said men share the responsibility for helping pregnant women avoid alcohol. She cited the success of the Dena A Coy program, a Southcentral Foundation group home in Anchorage where expectant mothers with alcohol problems can live alcohol free in an effort to avoid alcohol-related birth defects. She presented the governor's proclamation declaring May 9 through 15, 1993, as Alcohol-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week. She encouraged passage of HCR 7 as part of a statewide education program. Number 175 REP. BUNDE thanked Mrs. Hickel, and expressed special concern over FAS/FAE in light of the state's high teen pregnancy rate. He asked whether women in the Dena A Coy program have drinking problems, and whether they can enter the program as soon as they discover they are pregnant. MRS. HICKEL answered yes, given space restrictions. Number 214 REP. VEZEY moved passage of HCR 7 with individual recommendations. REP. G. DAVIS said he appreciated Rep. Nicholia's sponsorship and Mrs. Hickel's support. He asked whether the resolution should not include notice that FAS/FAE was a preventable birth defect. Number 234 REP. BRICE pointed out that the fourth "whereas" clause in the resolution did address that point. Number 246 CHAIR TOOHEY invited public testimony. SUZANNE PERRY, REGIONAL PROGRAM COORDINATOR FOR THE DIVISION OF ALCOHOLISM AND DRUG ABUSE IN THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES, presented a slide show on FAS/FAE, outlining the symptoms of FAS/FAE and showing the physical characteristics and stunted development of children born with alcohol-related birth defects in Alaska. Number 400 CHAIR TOOHEY asked whether a female child born with FAS will later pass along the syndrome's physical deformities to her children. MS. PERRY answered no. She added that the best way to prevent FAS/FAE is for women to abstain from any alcohol during pregnancy. Number 419 CHAIR TOOHEY noted that a drug counselor had told her that about 68 percent of children born in either Bethel or Barrow, she did not remember which, were born with FAS or FAE. MS. PERRY agreed that the problem is an epidemic. Number 424 REP. BUNDE asked whether infants can get FAS through the alcohol that might be present in mother's milk. MS. PERRY answered no, but a child's development may be impaired by ingesting alcohol while young. REP. BUNDE referred to a case in which an ultimately unsuccessful attempt was made to convict a Bethel woman with child abuse for drinking alcohol while nursing and passing along alcohol to her child while nursing. Number 437 CHAIR TOOHEY asked for any objections to passing HCR 7 from the committee. Hearing none, he declared HCR 7 passed with individual recommendations. She then brought HB 3 to the table.