Yukon looks for better ways to deal with FASD

A new 'inter-agency' committee aims to address weaknesses in the territory's treatment and prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

New committee will address weaknesses in treatment and prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

A new 'inter-agency' committee aims to address weaknesses in the Yukon's treatment and prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. (Torsten Mangner/Flickr)

The Yukon government has created what it calls an "inter-agency committee" to come up with a long-term plan to address Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in the territory.

The goal is to identify and address weaknesses in the treatment and prevention of FASD.

The committee has four co-chairs, from the departments of health and justice, the Child Development Centre, and the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Society of the Yukon (FASSY).

Brooke McKenzie, the co-chair from the Child Development Centre, says the collaborative nature of the committee is "unique and important."

She says that's because support for people diagnosed with FASD needs to come from different areas, but must also be delivered in a personalized, holistic way — what she calls "wraparound support."

Currently, there are several areas where the territory is leading the country in terms of FASD support and research. For example, FASSY is unique in exclusively supporting adults who have FASD.

'Very hopeful'

Wenda Bradley, the committee's co-chair from FASSY, says her organization was founded in the 1990s by a group of outspoken parents, such as Judy Pakozdy.

Pakozdy's son has FASD, and she was FASSY's first executive director.

It shouldn't be hard to diagnose and treat FASD, Pakozdy says, but progress is slow because of the current need for diagnostic teams to prove the fetus was exposed to alcohol.

"It's very stigmatizing to make a woman come out and say, 'yep, I drank,'" she said.

Pakozdy says it should be easy to assess a child and see whether he or she has neurological damage. The next step, she says, would be to figure out what kind of support is required.

Another of the new committee's co-chairs, Tricia Ratel from Yukon's Justice Department, says she's "very hopeful" about the work being done to develop an FASD plan.

By sitting down with people from different backgrounds, communities, and areas of expertise, she says they should be able to come up with a "living document" that will guide the future of FASD treatment in Yukon.

"The individuals with FASD, their caretakers, their supporters, will live more enriched lives for it," she said.