August 2, 2005
Nita Regan, President
2191 S. Dallas Street
Denver, CO 80231
Dr. Stephanie Clements
KUSA Channel 9
500 E. Speer Blvd.
Denver, CO 80203
Dear Dr. Stephanie:
I am the current President of the Metropolitan Denver Medical Societies Alliance, which is comprised of spouses of physicians in the Denver, Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, Aurora, Adams, and Clear Creek Valley Medical Societies. You already know my husband, Dr. Jim Regan who was past President of the Denver Medical Society and participates often in your Doctor Line 9. As our logo and slogan above suggest, the MDMSA is dedicated to helping promote healthy communities. We are a 501c3 organization and all of our members are volunteers.
My purpose for contacting you is this: September 9th marks the 7th annual International FAS Awareness Day, when communities around the world raise awareness about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. This day was chosen so that on the 9th hour of the 9th day of the 9th month of the year the world will be reminded that during the 9 months of pregnancy a woman should not consume alcohol. I’m sure you can ALREADY see why I thought of you becoming involved in this with us! This year also marks the 32nd anniversary of the year FAS was identified for the first time in the U.S. by researchers in Seattle. Thirty-two years later, the rate of heavy drinking during pregnancy has not declined. In fact, the rate rose in the early 90’s and has not decreased since then. In light of this sad statistic, we need to raise awareness in Colorado, because more and more families are seeking help from FAS Resource Centers.
This year, the Metropolitan Denver Medical Societies Alliance, in conjunction with the Colorado Medical Society and the Colorado Fetal Alcohol and Substance Abuse Coalition, have submitted and requested Governor Owens sign a proclamation making September 9, 2005 FASD Awareness Day, to bring attention to the new term being used worldwide, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. This new term helps us focus not only on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome but on the entire spectrum of disorders experienced by those individuals who do not have the physical characteristics of the full syndrome but are nonetheless affected by prenatal alcohol exposure. FASD lasts a lifetime, and there is no cure. But FASD is 100% preventable.
It is my vision to this year hold the very first Bell Concordance to mark Denver’s very first FASD Awareness Day and to have bells ringing in unison all across the city, along with other cities in 40 different countries in the world. And as 9 a.m. reveals itself in one time zone after another across the world, the bells will create a “wave” of sound to circle the earth as a warning, and as a wake up call.
Churches, synagogues, city offices and any other individuals who want to participate but don’t have bells to ring will be asked to observe a moment of silence and reflection. I have sent a letter to Archbishop Chaput today asking him to encourage the entire archdiocese to participate in the Bell Concordance, and I am awaiting his response. Next I will contact other churches in the city. You came to mind as the perfect “media lead” or “media sponsor” due to the focus of the number 9 in this whole effort. I would love to have your support in getting the word out about this inaugural event, and in spreading our message to thousands of people in our communities who may never have heard of this disorder or its far-reaching effects.
FASD continues to be a major health issue in our state. There are an estimated 34 to 137 babies born with FAS in Colorado every year, but the Surgeon General’s report of Feb. 2005 reminds us that “it is estimated that for every child born with FAS, three additional children are born who may not have the physical characteristics of FAS but still experience neurobehavioral deficits resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure that affect learning and behavior.” Some of these individuals may have mental retardation, but most have normal intelligence, but are nevertheless impaired in areas such as learning disabilities and memory deficits, and have difficulty with impulse control and poor judgment. They are misunderstood, vulnerable to abuse, and often the nature of their problem is not recognized. Without support services, these children are at risk of entering the criminal justice system, or may end up jobless, homeless, or struggling with poverty and addiction. Research has also shown that 43% of adults with FASD suffer from clinical depression and 23% have attempted suicide. The MDMSA believes that if we can raise awareness in our community, perhaps we can ensure that these children and adults receive the intervention services they need to have a healthy future. Perhaps we can educate others about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy so more babies can be born healthy. Our unborn children deserve to have the best chance at reaching their potential in life.
On 9/9 at 9:09 a.m. bells will ring around the world for one minute, telling all to Wake Up! Take Care! Protect Our Little Ones! I invite Channel 9 to take the lead in telling Denver about MDMSA’s very first Bell Concordance for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day this year. Your support will help us educate our city about the importance of abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy.
I would love to speak with you about how we can partner in this effort. I can be reached at 303-337-8333, or at the above address. I will be out of town from Aug 5 – 12 in case you choose to telephone me. I will respond as soon as I return if you don’t reach me in person.
President, Metropolitan Denver Medical Societies Alliance
Office of the Governor
FASD Awareness Day
Whereas the health of our children is perhaps Colorado’s greatest resource, and the life-long impact of fetal alcohol exposure is entirely preventable; and
Whereas despite the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advising against any drinking whatsoever, the frequency of alcohol consumption among pregnant women in the United States actually increased between 1991 and 1995, and a 1995 study by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment revealed that 59% of women of childbearing age had consumed at least one alcoholic beverage during the previous month (compared to 51% nationally), and 13.2% reported drinking 7 or more drinks per week (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Colorado and the Nation, 1995. Brief: No 18, 1997)); and
Whereas the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention administers the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System in Colorado with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (PRAMS) and has thereby revealed that among Denver women who gave birth during the period from 1997 -1999, 9.6% drank alcohol during the last three months of pregnancy, compared to 9.0% of women giving birth in the rest of Colorado, with both these rates being considerably higher than those recorded in any of the other 15 states participating in PRAMS (which have averaged 4.6%); and
Whereas half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and alcohol can damage a fetus at any stage of pregnancy; and
Whereas the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in the United States is between 0.6 and 2.0 per 1,000 births, meaning among Colorado’s 60,000 yearly births the medical system can expect to find between 30 and 120 babies born with FAS (Colorado Responds to Children with Special Needs); and
Whereas many individuals who were exposed to prenatal alcohol do not have the features of FAS yet still harbor lifelong neurocognitive and behavioral problems, representing a population manifesting the “fetal alcohol spectrum disorders”; and
Whereas individuals with fetal alcohol syndrome can amass more than $800,000 in health care costs over their lifetime, and the societal costs of a baby born with FAS have been estimated to reach $4 million over a lifetime, and the United States expends upward of $6 billion annually addressing the costs of FAS (Crime Times, Vol.1, No.1-2, 1995); and
Whereas a four year study of persons with FAS over 12 years of age revealed that 90% had mental health problems; 60% had been suspended, expelled or had dropped out of school; 60% had either committed a crime, needed treatment for substance abuse, or treatment for mental illness; and of those over 21 years of age, only 7 % were living independently without employment difficulties (Dr. Ann Streissguth, University of Washington Press, 1996); and
Whereas FASD is difficult to recognize and diagnose, with one large American hospital having been reported as having missed the diagnoses in 100% of affected newborns (Little,Bertis et al, Dallas Medical Journal, January 1995); and
Whereas it was over thirty years ago when FAS was identified and named as a birth disorder in the United States, and FAS Awareness Day has been recognized on September 9th, around the world, since 1999; and
Whereas the United States Senate passed a resolution designating September 9, 2005 as National Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day, and has appealed to all states to observe this special day;
Now, Therefore, I, William Owens, Governor of the State of Colorado, do hereby proclaim September 9, 2005 as
FETAL ALCOHOL SPECTRUM DISORDERS AWARENESS DAY
in Colorado, in the spirit of alerting our citizens to the potentially tragic effects of prenatal alcohol exposure; engendering compassion toward those affected, their families and caregivers; and recognizing the laudable efforts of researchers, clinicians, case workers, fund raisers and many others who are focusing so many of their energies toward the goal of total curtailment of this preventable affliction.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of the State of Colorado.
Done at the Capitol in Denver on this ________ Day of ________ in the Year 2005.
Secretary of State