Northern service providers take on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

In brief

landscape with lake and sky
Kenora, ON

In the early 1990s, service providers in Sioux Lookout and Kenora were concerned about the number of children and youth who presented at their agencies with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). FASD refers to disabilities and diagnoses that may result when a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy.

In the latest edition of Evidence in Action, learn about how service providers got together to educate themselves and their communities about the needs, treatment, and management of FASD – and learn about what’s happening now…

Evidence in Action profiles knowledge generation, exchange, and implementation activities across Ontario.

Read it below or download the PDF.

Background

From 2004 to 2006, the agencies worked together to operate the clinic and, upon its closure, rededicated themselves to finding other funding sources. With the clinic resource networks still intact in 2009 they devised a plan to operate ad hoc clinics as “pockets of monies” were found between the partner agencies. It was these clinics that the Youth Justice initiative capitalized on in 2011 when the clinics were held.

What is the problem?

In the early 1990s, service providers in Sioux Lookout and Kenora were concerned about the number of children and youth who presented at their agencies with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). FASD refers to disabilities and diagnoses that may result when a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy. The severity of birth defects may depend on how much alcohol is consumed as well as the overall health of the woman at the time of pregnancy (It’s Your Health, Health Canada, 2006). Youth who needed an FASD assessment were referred to a clinic in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a distance of over 200 km from Kenora and 450 km from Sioux Lookout.

How did the program get started?

Service providers got together to educate themselves and their communities about the needs, treatment, and management of FASD. Funding was secured to bring in experts to provide current research and models of care for the service networks that had developed in the region. In 2004, the service providers were successful in obtaining pilot funding from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care to conduct diagnostic clinics in Kenora and Sioux Lookout. Although approximately 74 completed assessments were done over a period of 18 months, a wait list continued to exist. Additional funding was not available but the service providers remained committed to meeting the needs of their FASD clients.

What does the program look like now?

The original FASD Kenora District clinic committee network was formed in 2003 with a committed group of interagency personnel who dedicated themselves to seeking out funding to operate an FASD diagnostic clinic. The same urgent demand that had led Sioux Lookout and Kenora to organize in the early 1990s also drove the movement to start a diagnostic clinic.

From 2004 to 2006, the agencies worked together to operate the clinic and, upon its closure, rededicated themselves to finding other funding sources. With the clinic resource networks still intact in 2009 they devised a plan to operate ad hoc clinics as “pockets of monies” were found between the partner agencies. It was these clinics that the Youth Justice initiative capitalized on in 2011 when the clinics were held.

In mid-2012 service providers formed a committee to organize FASD diagnostic clinics. A team of health care professionals assisted the committee in establishing a referral process. The process identified possible youth, the information that should be gathered during the interview, consent and release forms, and a protocol for obtaining confirmation about alcohol use during pregnancy.

The committee distributed information packages to the Youth Justice Office network to announce the upcoming clinics. Of the fifteen youth who were identified by service providers, eight were seen at the November 2012 clinic in Sioux Lookout and five participated in the Kenora clinic in January 2013. . 

Why does it work?

Although funding applications have not been successful, the commitment from interagency professionals to creatively work together to develop a district partnership has allowed the diagnostic clinics to operate at various times throughout the year when pockets of money are found.   

What’s next?

A clinic will be held in late 2013 for another eleven youth who have been identified with FASD. The clinical team continues to provide support along with the diagnosing physicians.

The interagency committee is always looking for secure funding to establish stable FASD assessment services. Youth are now able to access services in their home communities and the FASD diagnosis has improved the follow-up care they receive within the inter-agency network. 

For more information, contact Jack Martin jmartin [at] creightonyouth [dot] com or Claudine Longboat-White clongboatwhite [at] bimose [dot] ca.

Author: Kim Karioja

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