The Center for Maternal Substance Abuse and Child Development (MSACD) began life as the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Screening project in 1981. At that time, the Georgia Legislature had the foresight to establish a program for screening pregnant women for alcohol use in order to identify the extent of the problem in Georgia and create methods of prevention in this group.
In the early 1980's, there was still considerable debate about the extent of this problem and, indeed, about the existence of FAS and other conditions resulting from prenatal exposure to substances of abuse. The FAS Screening project was among the first to work with this problem and was able to establish that alcohol effects could be seen in newborn infants. We also found that an informational intervention with pregnant women could greatly reduce alcohol and other drug use and improve birth outcomes. As part of this project, we developed the Dysmorphia Checklist, as screening tool for use in FAS clinics that reliably and validly identifies alcohol effects in children and adolescents.
At the present time, the Center for MSACD fulfills several roles in Georgia by sponsoring clinical, prevention, and research programs. The Center houses the Emory Neurodevelopmental Exposures Clinic (ENEC), a multidisciplinary clinic dedicated to providing evaluation and intervention services to individuals exposed to substances in pregnancy. A recent addition to the Center is MotherToBaby Georgia, a service providing evidence-based information to women about exposures to medications and other substances during pregnancy. It is part of the non-profit Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), a national information network.
The Center for MSACD also provides training, workshops, and other informational services concerning prenatal exposure to alcohol, nicotine, illicit drugs, and prescription drugs. Research projects funded by both the state and federal agencies continue to examine effects of prenatal exposure on development, evaluate intervention programs, and describe the clinic population using comprehensive databases. Through these efforts, the Center for MSACD continues to be a valuable resource to individuals, parents, and professionals in Georgia and the Southeast.