Two bills approved on Tuesday by the Oklahoma House of Representative would address fetal alcohol syndrome at critical points that could have the most impact on the lives it affects — during pregnancy and immediately after birth.

We urge state senators to give House Bills 3406 and 3560 due consideration so children born with fetal alcohol syndrome in Oklahoma get the unique care they need — and deserve. The two bills not only would increase these children’s chances of survival, they could enhance their quality of life.

Exposure of a developing baby to alcohol can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause physical, behavioral and intellectual disabilities that can last a lifetime. Nationally, about 40,000 newborns are born with fetal alcohol syndrome every year.

HB3406 would require an extra hour of training during the certification process for foster parents, providing them with the information they need to understand and deal with the newborns suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome. Rep. Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula, the author of HB 3406 and a licensed psychologist, said those children “have a unique set of needs, and we want to be sure that, while these babies are in state custody, they’re in homes of foster parents who understand their needs and can probably take care of them.”

HB 3560 would require a referral health care providers to refer pregnant women who screen positive for an alcohol use disorder to the Oklahoma Department Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) in an attempt to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome in newborns. Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay, a co-author of HB 3560 and nurse practitioner, said screening already takes place, and she hopes “the number of children born with this condition” can be reduced by “providing references and resources (to) pregnant women whose children may be at risk for fetal syndrome.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the annual cost of fetal alcohol syndrome to the United States economy is more than $4 billion. The lifetime cost of care for one person born with the condition was estimated in 2002 to be more than $2 million.

Our state senators should support these measures and future generations.

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