County Makes Strides in Addressing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Efforts to raise awareness, prevent, and address Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) show promising progress on the heels of FASDs Awareness Month

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. October 3, 2023 — With September nationally recognized as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) Awareness Month, the County of Santa Clara Behavioral Health Services Department (BHSD) is sharing the County’s work to confront FASDs and Executive Functioning Disorders more broadly, and pledging to build upon these efforts in coming years.

As of October 2023, BHSD has made progress in all objectives it laid out in an ambitious three-year workplan to prevent and address FASDs. The ongoing efforts have brought visibility to an issue deserving of attention and were acknowledged in an official proclamation recognizing September as FASDs Awareness Month from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on September 19. Brought forward by Supervisor Cindy Chavez, the proclamation stated that “FASDs Awareness Month will help generate public awareness about the risks and consequences of alcohol use during pregnancy and inspire community-wide efforts aimed at preventing FASDs.”

Supervisor Chavez noted, “This proclamation is a powerful statement that puts a spotlight on this issue that has gone largely unrecognized. Santa Clara County is at the forefront of the movement to tackle FASDs. We are leading by example with our work to improve prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, helping to improve the lives of those affected by FASDs in our county. We have demonstrated commitment to the cause through concerted efforts to better understand these disorders. We will continue to do the work for the individuals, caregivers, and families who are affected by FASDs.”

BHSD has supported public awareness efforts around FASDs since 2021, when its NotEven1 media campaign was launched to improve knowledge and awareness about FASDs. The first three campaign phases generated nearly 49,000,000 digital impressions and were aired online, on local TV, and on local buses. The newest campaign phase launched on Monday, September 25, and will run through October. With this campaign, the County has set out to reach expecting mothers, mothers breastfeeding, those planning to get pregnant, as well as partners and potential caregivers. English, Spanish, and Vietnamese ads inform those groups that there is no safe amount or type of alcohol to drink during pregnancy and encourage them to visit the County’s campaign resource page  

“To address FASDs we have to educate our communities,” said BHSD Access and Unplanned Services Director, Bruce Copley. “Our public awareness campaigns aim to get the information to those mothers and prospective mothers and families so that they can take steps to prevent FASDs. This issue is not widely discussed so it’s key that we alert the public about FASDs and let them know that FASDs are preventable.”

In addition, in recent months, BHSD and partner County agencies initiated a comprehensive training program on FASDs and prenatal substance exposure for service providers throughout Santa Clara County. The trainings aim to increase understanding among providers about FASDs and encourage agencies to increase screenings for prenatal substance exposure among the individuals they serve. To-date trainings have been delivered to staff working in behavioral health, Social Services, obstetrics-gynecology, and public health nursing. Additional trainings are planned for providers working in custody and education in September and October, with additional follow-up trainings under development.

The County has also taken a critical step in improving the diagnosis of FASDs, by defining the diagnostic criteria based on thorough review of the available evidence. On September 28 the County held a roundtable of medical and behavioral health care providers and experts from around the county, led by Dr. Ira Chasnoff, a nationally-recognized researcher in the field of child development and the effects of maternal alcohol and drug use on the newborn infant, child, and adolescent. The roundtable provided a foundation by establishing a standard for FASDs diagnosis for the county, leading to better detection and treatment supports for individuals who have FASDs.


The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multi-cultural population of 1.9 million residents in Santa Clara County, Calif., making it more populous than 14 states in the U.S. The County provides essential services to its residents, including public health protection, environmental stewardship, medical services through the County of Santa Clara Health System, child and adult protection services, homelessness prevention and solutions, roads, park services, libraries, emergency response to disasters, protection of minority communities and those under threat, access to a fair criminal justice system, and many other public benefits.


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