si-nb-maurice-leblanc-220

Maurice LeBlanc, the executive director of Family Service Moncton, said the new centre will help people living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.(CBC)

The New Brunswick government and Family Service Moncton Inc. are creating a specialized centre to deal with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in Moncton.

Health Minister Madeleine Dubé announced details of the new centre on Tuesday at a news conference in Moncton. The provincial government and the two regional health authorities will work with Family Service Moncton on the new initiative.

"Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders affect many aspects of a person's life – health, education, social interaction and work," Dubé said in a statement.

"Addressing fetal alcohol spectrum disorders requires the collaboration of many stakeholder and community groups, and I am pleased that we have found a solid partner in Family Service Moncton Inc. to help us reach our shared goals."

Dubé said the provincial government selected the non-governmental organization after releasing a request for proposals.

Family Service Moncton will be in charge of building the infrastructure to support the co-ordination and service delivery related to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder prevention, diagnosis and intervention.

The contract is worth $500,000 annually over five years.

Maurice LeBlanc, chief executive officer of Family Service Moncton Inc., said the specialized centre will help children and families impacted by the disorder.

"We are confident that the implementation of this new provincial service will positively impact the health status of New Brunswick children, youth and families touched by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders while lowering the economic and social burdens being placed on the communities of our province," LeBlanc said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Horizon Health Network and Vitalité will offer the required specialized clinical services and expertise for the centre.

Affects nine in 1,000

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 the disorder is caused if a child’s birthmother consumed alcohol during pregnancy.

The new Moncton-based centre will:

  • create a bilingual team that can address the prevention, diagnosis and intervention of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • establish a network of regionally-based community officials to help individuals and caregivers of people impacted by the disorder
  • develop a First Nations component to ensure services to First Nations are culturally appropriate

Two doctors, who appeared at the Tuesday press conference, applauded the new centre.

Dr. Nicole LeBlanc, a Moncton pediatrician, said she supports the new provincial program because it will offer children and families access to quality services.

"The children are there, they're already in our communities, they're already in our schools however we're not seeing them with that FASD lens meaning that we're not necessarily addressing their needs as they probably should be addressed," LeBlanc said.

"So for me, to have the excellence centre really means that we're going to be able to address it with the highest possible standards and offer the best quality care to our patients and to our families."

Meanwhile, Dr. Lori Vitale-Cox, the co-ordinator of the Eastern Door FASD diagnostic team at the Elsipogtog First Nation, said it is possible for children to heal when the disorder is diagnosed.

"We've seen children who got diagnosed and worked with the elders, with healing, with the school, with the teachers, they're graduating college now," Vitale-Cox said.

"It affects the relationship, it affects the hormonal system, but the brain is plastic. And if you do the right interventions early you can prevent secondary disabilities and you can make the outcome much better."