The Department of Health is scrambling to save a unique program that helps people with fetal alcohol syndrome, after Family Service Moncton Inc. went bankrupt earlier in July.
The provincial government agreed to a contract with Family Service Moncton that was worth $500,000 annually, spread over five years, to establish the specialized centre.
But Family Service Moncton, which also offered counselling for families and workers, has debts ranging from $142 owed to a local flower shop to a $149,000 bill from the Department of Health, according to court documents.
Valerie Bobyk, a national board member with Family Service Canada, said other family service agencies in the province are also on the hook for money they spent to help Moncton's office set up a provincial network.
"When Moncton went bankrupt the fetal alcohol syndrome had advanced a fair chunk of change to Moncton to give it the potential or the capacity to build that network. People had to be hired, space had to be rented to see people, those kinds of thing," she said.
Officials with the Department of Health refused to do an interview on the impact of the group’s bankruptcy on the fetal alcohol syndrome centre.
In an e-mail it says it has set up a plan to help current patients and it's going to start looking for a new partner to offer the program.
"The Department of Health’s focus is on the clients. We have acted rapidly to ensure the files were secured in order to protect patient confidentiality, and we’ve implemented an interim plan to ensure continuity of care for clients experiencing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder," said Mélanie Sivret, a spokesperson, in an email.
"There was approved funding that had been provided to Family Service Moncton and that money appears to be at risk. It is the trustee’s job to liquidate assets and determine the priority in which creditors are paid, so you would need to have this discussion with them."
Centre announced in 2012
The specialized centre was going to bring together Family Service Moncton, the provincial government and the two regional health authorities to work on the issue of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Maurice LeBlanc, the chief executive officer of Family Service Moncton, said when the announcement was made in February 2012 the specialized centre would help children and families impacted by the disorder.
The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that nine in 1,000 babies have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
The disorder may lead to a child’s physical disabilities, brain and central nervous system disabilities and behavioural problems.
It is believed fetal alcohol spectrum is caused if a child’s birthmother consumed alcohol during pregnancy
In December, Family Service Moncton announced plans to cancel its subsidized counselling program on Jan. 1 after losing nearly $100,000 in funding from the United Way.