FASD Programs and Services at NorWest Community Health Centres
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a term that describes all the harmful effects of alcohol on the unborn child. The effects last a lifetime – there is no cure. FASD is a preventable permanent disability. It is estimated that 2 to 5 percent of babies born in Canada are affected by FASD. People with FASD often have difficulties with learning, memory, attention and problem solving, as well as problems with mental health and social interaction.
Since 2001, the NorWest Community Health Centres has been involved in awareness, training, support, the establishment of a local diagnostic clinic, and the provision of primary care for individuals with FASD. The many partnerships that we have been able to establish and develop have been essential to increase the local capacity to serve clients with FASD and their families.
FASD Diagnostics once required several visits to a diagnostic center either in Southern Ontario or in another province. We started holding FASD Diagnostic Clinics with St. Michael’s Hospital via telemedicine in 2007 to develop local diagnostic capacity. We now accept over 100 clients per year for intake as part of the diagnostic process. For someone living in the region FASD diagnostics will require a minimum of one visit to Thunder Bay to complete the intake and for the neuropsychological assessment.
The diagnostic process can be lengthy if you consider securing all the records and the assessments that are required. It is not unusual for individuals suspected of FASD and their families to be in need of support during the diagnostic process. Our Therapists provide counselling for our clients and their families. Our Community Health Workers problem solve with clients around determinants of health factors such as income, housing, food security, life skills, and social supports. They will assist clients with navigating community services by letting them know what is available, and how to access these, and assist clients with form completion. At any given time, we are providing support to approximately 150 clients.
Since half of individuals referred for FASD Diagnostics do not have access to primary care, we accept them into our practice. This involves a thorough intake with a Nurse and Community Health Worker. Some individuals also qualify for Health Links Coordinated Care Plans.
We offer an 8-week FASD Caregiver Program. Initially developed for parents, this program has been adapted to include caregivers, partners and siblings of individuals with FASD. We offer a monthly education programs during the fall and winter.
We provide local training opportunities through various training event. We train between 500 to 600 people each year, including offering a major training event once a year in Thunder Bay, bringing a FASD expert based on the needs of our community members and partners.
We offer a community kitchen for young adults with FASD twice a month. The community kitchen has a hand’s on food preparation component, and a life skills component. An outing is organized every few months to develop social skills covered in the life skills program.
As part of our involvement with the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Ontario Network of Expertise (FASD ONE), mentoring and support is occurring between current and emerging FASD Diagnostic Clinics in the province by quarterly meetings we organize via telemedicine for up to 25 sites across the province.
For more information, contact Maureen Parkes, FASD Coordinator at the NorWest Community Health Centres at (807) 626-8485.
Anita Jean is the Manager of Health and Social Programs at the NorWest Community Health Centres.
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