Thursday, December 13, 2012

Legal Eagle***

Since I’ve been pushing folks to write their senators in support of s2262 legislation Advancing FASD Research, Prevention, and Services Act here, on Facebook, and in person pretty hard I thought it might be interesting for folks to know the status of legislation regarding FASD in general.  I make it a habit to keep up with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Center for Excellence’s (the Center)  Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Legislation Report which comes out biannually.  The latest issue of the report was published in October 2012 so the results are quite current.

I find it a bit peculiar that the report looks at legislative activity at the state level but not the federal.  I also thing that the report tends toward an overly optimistic tone, in part because of how it divides the statistics.  The current issue covers legislation introduced between 2003 and April 30, 2012, as well as any status changes as of October 22, 2012.  During that time frame there have been 290 bills (or resolutions, memorial motions, or other pieces of legislation) either entirely or partially related to FASD, identified across 45 States and the District of Columbia.  Of the 290 identified 87 or 30% have been passed / adopted.  The Report is very upbeat about the 30% “pass rate” vs. an average 4% pass rate for bills introduced overall.  This is a bit of an overly rosy interpretation in my opinion.    The 4% rate is determined by looking at all bills (not resolutions, memorial motions etc.) introduced and passed per year.  Not only is the population they are using different the time frame, 9 years’ worth of passes vs one prevents a real apples to apples comparison.
The report also segments the data by “categories” that the legislation addresses like Prevention, Treatment, Funding and Criminalization.* They report the prevalence of legislation as follows:
Prevention                                             43%
Funding                                                 24%
Criminalization                                    13%
Treatment                                             12%
But the categorization method is misleading.  Treatment in this structure covers both treatment of individuals affected by FASD and treatment of alcohol addictions aimed at preventing FASD.  Also funding in much of the legislation is directed by the legislation at a specific target – Prevention, Awareness, or Treatment.    If you look at the details of the items in the Funding and Treatment categories in that light you end up with a very different picture of the legislative makeup:
Prevention **                       72%
Criminalization                    14%       
Treatment of FASD            7%
Also, looking at the pass fail rate of the categories is instructive:
Prevention**                        65% pass rate
Criminalization                    29% pass rate
Treatment of FASD            7% pass rate
If you strip out non-binding resolutions and memorandums passage of legislation aimed at improving the lives of individuals with FASD is WORSE than the 4% average.  So, I’m pushing a bill I think makes a difference.  Is it perfect?  No but what in this world is.  It contains elements of prevention and awareness which are important.  It advances research to better understand FASD.  It also addresses diagnosis and treatment of individuals already suffering.  If you are reading here and you haven’t yet taken action to encourage your senators to advance S2262 please do.  It’s not hard.

*Criminalization is the introduction of criminal penalties against women who have alcohol exposed pregnancies. 
** Prevention including treatment of alcoholism aimed at preventing FASD births.
*** The education I'm getting from trying to effecively advocate for my son is amazing.  Neurobiology, Law, Public Policy, Education Theory, man you name it.

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