Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is Front and Centre at NorWest Community Health Centres
By Miguelle Ouellet, M.S.W., R.S.W
September is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) awareness month. It is the time of year to remind ourselves that FASD can be prevented and to look at what can be done to decrease the incidents of FASD in our communities and what can be done to support those in the community with FASD. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the term that describes the range of effects that can occur when a developing fetus is exposed to alcohol. These effects result in lifelong disability - there is no cure. While this month specifically is dedicated to raising awareness of FASD, preventing FASD is important every month of the year. The message cannot be repeated too much: There is no known safe amount of alcohol, or safe type of alcohol, that can be consumed during pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant. There is also no time period during pregnancy in which it is safe to drink alcohol.
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NorWest Community Health Centres is home to the FASD Diagnostic Clinic, which provides full pre-assessment and diagnostic services. The FASD team is comprised of a Coordinator, Physicians, and Nurse Practitioners who have received specialized training in FASD. The FASD diagnostic clinic is one of the few in Ontario that is able to diagnose FASD throughout the lifespan.
Primary care is a core focus of the Norwest CHC and when presenting at the clinic, many individuals with FASD do not have access to a primary care provider, such as a Family Physician or Nurse Practitioner. As a result, individuals involved with the FASD diagnostic clinic are able to access primary care through the Norwest Community Health Centres. Once connected with a primary care provider, individuals with FASD can also access the full range of services offered at NorWest CHC.
The clinic also provides follow up support through programs such as the caregiver education group, the FASD community kitchen and Community Health Worker support. The caregiver education group is an 8-week program that provides education and support to parents and caregivers of those with FASD. This program runs periodically throughout the year.
The community kitchen is an opportunity for individuals with FASD to learn and apply kitchen safety and food preparation and cooking skills in NorWest CHC’s kitchen. Participants have the opportunity to cook a meal together and then eat what they have made. The program also focuses on building social connectedness, reducing isolation, developing life skills and increasing awareness of community resources. The community kitchen runs on a biweekly basis throughout the year and at times involves other activities, such as bowling or swimming, at various community locations.
The FASD clinic also has access to the Community Health Worker program, which assists clients in navigating the health and mental health care systems. A Community Health Worker can provide services such as providing information on community resources, assisting with obtaining personal identification and forms completion, and coaching to help clients achieve their personal goals. For those clients with both FASD and complex chronic or high cost health or mental health needs, NorWest CHC provides the Health Links program, which involves the creation of a coordinated care plan to identify client goals and appropriate supports.
For more information about our FASD-specific programs and how to access these services, contact Maureen Parkes, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Coordinator at NorWest Community Health Centres, at (807) 626-8485 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Miguelle Ouellet, M.S.W, R.S.W, is a Community Health Worker at the NorWest Community Health Centres.
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