British Columbia

New Okanagan clinic aims to help adults with undiagnosed FASD

The Spec-Team Assessment Society says it is opening only the second Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder diagnosis clinic in B.C. and the first outside the Lower Mainland.

Society says diagnosis can change lives for those struggling with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder can be caused when a mother drinks during pregnancy. (

Organizers of a new clinic opening Thursday in Vernon, B.C., say they want to catch missed diagnoses of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in adults, including inmates at a nearby jail.

The Spec-Team Assessment Society says it is opening only the second FASD diagnosis clinic in B.C. and the first outside the Lower Mainland.

"I have seen myself the results of having an assessment and supports for individuals, especially adults, with FASD," executive director and co-ordinator Bernadette O'Donnell told Radio West host Audrey McKinnon.

"How their lives can turn around and how they can become very healthy, independent and dignified lives."

O'Donnell says one example is a man who was undiagnosed and addicted to drugs, homeless and getting into trouble with the law.

But after his diagnosis, he was able to connect with services, stop self-medicating with drugs and start living independently.

O'Donnell says one future goal of the clinic is to reach inmates at the jail in Oliver, B.C., south of Vernon.

She says she has helped 50 inmate clients already, and with a diagnosis and proper supports, the recidivism rate for those clients dropped to three per cent.

"When we go into the criminal justice system, in our jails, there is a significant number of adults in the jails who have FASD and it hasn't been diagnosed," she said.

"These individuals can reconnect with their families, they can have custody of their children once again and they can live independently with pride."

O'Donnell says in the future, it would be helpful for FASD specialists to work with inmates on reintegration support.

The clinic will be located at 3402 27th Ave. in Vernon in the People Place Building.

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: New Vernon clinic aims to help adults with undiagnosed FASD