A clinic that primarily aids youngsters brain-damaged by their mothers who drank alcohol while pregnant may close if money for its operation is omitted from the state budget, officials said Monday.
Florida's only Fetal Alcohol Diagnostic and Inter-vention Clinic, located in Sarasota, is at risk of losing state funds and closing its doors, said Kathryn Shea, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Center for Early Childhood, where the clinic operates along with five other programs.
The Florida House has approved $380,000 to continue the clinic's work, but the Senate so far has not appropriated anything, she said.
Shea, who was in Tallahassee attempting to resolve the situation, said she had "no assurances."
Layoffs of six workers before July 1 could be the result, she added.
"We're fighting hard to keep it funded," said state Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, who also said he has lobbied Gov. Rick Scott's staff on the subject.
The clinic assesses clients and provides intervention and treatment, said Shea. Perhaps 30-40 percent of its clients reside in Manatee County, with others hailing from Sarasota and elsewhere, she added.
It also trains 500 people yearly from across the state, and puts 40,000 rack cards in medical settings
in an effort at prevention, she said.
"The reason they're impaired is mom drank alcohol while she was pregnant, and the more she drinks and the more frequently she drinks, the more severe the impact," Shea explained, noting such damage is "100 percent preventable."
Such behavior can leave the infant or child with significant developmental disabilities, intellectual deficits, and impaired behavioral and social skills, Shea said.
"We have the funds in the House budget, and we think the Senate will do the right thing and match ours," said state Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota.
"The clinic is very important, it doesn't just take care of people in Sarasota County, it's a statewide program. It's a very important program, and they've done a great job."
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.