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January Is National Birth Defects Prevention Month
January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, which aims to increase awareness that birth defects are common, costly, and critical and to share actionable steps that professionals, community groups, and the public can take to prevent birth defects.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are preventable birth defects caused by drinking during pregnancy. FASD are a group of conditions that can include physical problems and problems with behavior and learning. Each year, an estimated 40,000 babies are born in the United States with FASD. Teenage mothers are particularly at risk for FASD, as they are less likely to get adequate prenatal care and are at higher risk for alcohol or drug use, poverty, inadequate weight gain, and a nutritionally inadequate diet.

There are significant costs for these preventable birth defects associated with teenage pregnancy. According to the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center, the cost of care for affected babies born to teen mothers who drink is more than $1.3 billion each year. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Center for Excellence offers information on FASD prevention and treatment, innovative service delivery strategies, training, support for families and individuals with FASD, and prevention of alcohol use among women of child-bearing age, including those under age 21.

January Is National Poverty in America Awareness Month
January is National Poverty in America Awareness Month, a month-long opportunity for people to make a commitment and take action to fight against poverty. Approximately 45 million Americans, or 15 percent of the population, live in poverty. The poverty rate among children ages 18 and younger is about 20 percent, or one of every five children. Detailed information about the well-being of children, including those living in poverty, is available from the U.S Census Bureau.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism notes that most American youth grow up in a culture pervaded by alcohol, but those who live in poverty may be at higher risk for alcohol use and its consequences. For more information, read Key Features of Risk and Protective Factors from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies.

NIDA Releases 2014 Monitoring the Future Survey Results
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) released national findings from the 2014 Monitoring the Future (MTF) Survey on alcohol and other drug use and attitudes among middle and high school students in the United States. Key findings from the report are highlighted below:

  • Alcohol use among 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students continued to decline. In the month prior to the survey, 9 percent of 8th graders, 23.5 percent of 10th graders, and 37.4 percent of 12th graders reported alcohol use. 
  • The proportion of students reporting any alcohol use has decreased about a third, from a peak of 61 percent in 1997 to 41 percent in 2014.
  • Binge drinking significantly decreased among 12th graders, with less than 20 percent reporting this level of drinking. Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks in a row at least once in the 2 weeks before the survey.
  • Binge drinking also fell significantly to 12 percent for the three grades combined. This rate is almost half of that reported in 1997, when it peaked at 22 percent.
  • Possible factors contributing to these declines are an increase in peer disapproval of binge drinking and a decrease in the percentage of students saying that alcohol is easy for them to get.

The MTF Survey is funded by NIDA, a part of the National Institutes of Health, and conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan. More information and the full results from the survey are available on NIDA’s website.

SAMHSA Is Seeking Applicants for Behavioral Health Leadership Program
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment is seeking applications for the 2015 Behavioral Health Leadership Development Program, a part of SAMHSA’s Project LIFT (Leadership Initiatives for Tomorrow). To qualify, you must be:

  • Between the ages of 20 and 30; and
  • Currently working in, or committed to a future career in, the behavioral health field.

This intensive 7-month leadership development program:

  • Enhances young professionals’ leadership development through self-awareness and interpersonal skills;
  • Provides a basic understanding of the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act; and
  • Helps to increase recruitment and retention in the behavioral health field.

Both the application and nominator forms, available online, must be submitted by Monday, January 12, 2015.
There is no cost to apply or to participate. Participants are required to have a computer with high-speed Internet access, the necessary software, and a webcam.