The province is investing more than $1.6 million to improve access to diagnostic services and expand resources for Manitobans living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), Family Services and Housing Minister Gord Mackintosh announced today.
“FASD is a serious disability that left undiagnosed or untreated makes life difficult for those who have it,” Mackintosh said. “By doing everything we can to improve access to diagnosis, we have an excellent opportunity to help those with FASD lead fulfilling lives.”
Nearly half of the new funding will be directed to the Manitoba FASD Centre (formerly the Clinic for Alcohol and Drug Exposed Children or CADEC), allowing it to expand services to youth and to increase the number of children who can access it by as much as 30 per cent.
In addition to the increase in assessment capacity in Winnipeg, the new funding will enhance diagnostic capacity in rural and northern regional health authorities, Mackintosh said. Health authorities will develop satellite diagnostic sites and partner with the Manitoba FASD Centre in Winnipeg to form the Manitoba FASD Network.
This expansion into rural and northern communities will improve diagnostic access for Manitoba families and build local capacity to support individuals with FASD, the minister said. The Manitoba FASD Centre will oversee the administration of the network and provide its expertise to satellite sites as they develop.
“Manitoba FASD Centre staff members are profoundly grateful and enthusiastic about the opportunities of responding to the critical need for more available FASD diagnosis and for the first time providing FASD diagnostic services to adolescents,” said medical director of the FASD Centre and network Dr. Sally Longstaffe. “We are equally eager to work collaboratively in development of the Manitoba FASD diagnostic network, allowing enhanced access to diagnosis and support everywhere in Manitoba.”
To increase support services to families, $342,000 has been provided for new respite day camps for children aged three to 12 called Stepping Out on Saturdays in Manitoba. This new initiative will be launched this fall in Winnipeg, Brandon, Little Grand Rapids and Thompson. These camps will provide respite for caregivers while also helping up to 72 children a year develop healthy social and problem-solving skills.
“We’ll use this strategy to reach out to people in our region, sharing information about prevention, diagnosis and other supports,” said Drew Lockhart, chief executive officer of the NOR-MAN Regional Health Authority. “We’re building our capacity to reach out to individuals, families and communities so anyone who needs to access FASD resources is able to do so.”
A total of $80,000 has been allocated for the fall launch of the Winnipeg pilot of Project CHOICES, a new prevention initiative aimed at reducing alcohol-exposed pregnancies, Mackintosh said. Project CHOICES provides information and a brief intervention to women and adolescent girls who are at high risk for an alcohol-exposed pregnancy.
Other new and expanding initiatives that build on Manitoba’s FASD strategy include:
· the development of the Visions and Voices project, which will help adults with a FASD diagnosis speak publicly about their experiences living with this disability;
· three new Stop FASD prevention programs in Portage la Prairie, Flin Flon and Dauphin, increasing the total number of sites to seven;
· support for 12 FASD community-based coalitions across the province including the Coalition on Alcohol and Pregnancy based in Winnipeg;
· an Aboriginal elders gathering that will provide information and resources for FASD prevention;
· support for Reclaiming our Voices, a healing gathering for women affected by addictions who may have children with FASD; and
· FASD resource packages for child-welfare agency staff and alternative caregivers, and the creation of FASD resource libraries within each of the four child and family service authorities.
“We welcome these new initiatives and believe they will go a long way to help tackle FASD within our communities,” said Elsie Flette, chief executive officer of the Southern First Nations Network of Care. “We all know FASD is a very complex issue that needs strategic approaches and much-needed resources for our families and our communities.”
The Manitoba FASD Centre and the Manitoba FASD Network will be funded by Manitoba Health and Healthy Living, and Changes for Children, an initiative of the four child welfare authorities and the Manitoba Family Services and Housing.
The Project CHOICES pilot is being funded through the Healthy Child Manitoba Office. The remaining initiatives will be fully funded by Changes for Children, which improves the child and family services system and protects children from harm through strategic investments, said Mackintosh.