VINTON — Melinda Norman of Vinton was recognized Sept. 15 by the Ohio Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders State Steering Committee as its first chairman.
She was appointed a year after its formation by then-Ohio First Lady Hope Taft. Mrs. Taft was also honored at last month’s annual forum of the FASD State Steering Committee in Columbus. September was designated FASD Awareness and Prevention Month in a resolution from Gov. John Kasich.
During the meeting, the current co-chairs of the committee, Karen Kimbrough and Alexis Martin, shared the committee’s history with the audience. They also took the opportunity to honor the people that were instrumental in getting this initiative started. The first person to be honored was Mrs. Taft, who in an address to those attending, recognized several past members for their contributions to this effort.
Norman was among those mentioned. In 2003, Taft, in partnership with the former Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (now known as Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services), and the Ohio Family and Children First Cabinet Council, formed the Ohio FASD State Steering Committee. Under the guidance of Mrs. Taft and then-Deputy Director Carolyn Givens, Norman was selected to chair this committee in 2004.
Norman, a prevention specialist with ODADAS (now Ohio MHAS), had the knowledge, skills and abilities from her work in the prevention field to facilitate the collaboration between nine state cabinet level agencies, institutions of higher education, community providers and parents/caregivers.
Norman represented Ohio at several national FASD conferences where she presented on Ohio’s work about FASD prevention and intervention, and was recognized as a subject matter expert in the field. She was the chair of this committee until she left the state agency in the fall of 2013.
During the forum, Kathy Mitchell, vice president of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Washington D.C., shared her story as the keynote speaker. Mitchell thanked Ohio for all the work that has been done to reduce the stigma associated with FASD and their continued efforts in prevention, in which Taft and Norman were a part of this committee’s success.
The Ohio FASD State Steering Committee has five goals as part of its strategic plan. These include reduction of alcohol-exposed pregnancies, increased availability and awareness of services for those affected by FASD, increased availability and awareness of FASD services for providers, increased screening and diagnosis for FASD, and finally, mobilization and sustainability of the committee’s efforts.
FASD are the only 100 percent preventable birth defect, experts said. There is no safe time, no safe type or no safe amount of alcohol when you are pregnant, they added.