Submission to the Select Committee on Developmental Services (FASD)
My name is Kathy Moreland Layte. I am a registered nurse and professor of nursing from Kitchener, Ontario. I am here today representing the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO). RNAO is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.
On behalf of RNAO, I’d like to extend our thanks to the Select Committee on Developmental Services for hearing our presentation this morning. Committee members are to be commended for addressing the issues of developmental services, as they impact greatly on the health of many Ontarians, their families, and our communities as a whole. Through review of the minutes of your proceedings, it has been noted that the issues of children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities have been represented. Thus, I will focus RNAO's remarks on a group of individuals and their caregivers who too often fall through the cracks of the developmental services grid.
I am here to speak with you about children, youth, adults and caregivers living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. I will start by sharing some background information, which we have also included in the files before you.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (or FASD) is a brain-based physical disability that is the most common type of developmental disorder in Canada. The brain damage developed in relation to FASD is permanent and cannot be cured. And, because of their brain injury, people with FASD face a wide spectrum of lifetime challenges, from mild to very serious physical, mental and emotional disabilities.
- RNAO is calling for a provincial strategy. Ontario is one of the only provinces without a provincial framework to address FASD through an integrated, interdisciplinary strategy for the prevention, diagnosis and care of individuals and families living with FASD. In 2005, the Public Health Agency of Canada developed a Framework for Action on FASD, calling on all provinces to develop an integrated, purposeful approach to FASD. To address FASD and save costly resources, Ontario needs to develop an evidence-based, integrated strategy to address FASD, including: prevention, diagnosis, intervention and support. Such a strategy is currently being drafted for presentation to the provincial government by FASD Ontario Network of Expertise. Such a strategy would reduce the harm created by continued use of alcohol in pregnancy, diagnose those affected by prenatal alcohol exposure early, and provide supports to individuals and families living with FASD through their lifespan.
- We urge that accessible, affordable diagnostic services be available to children who suffer FASD and their families. And,
- Caregivers should have the respite and other services they need to be able to work, stay well and have a healthy family life.
In conclusion: FASD is a preventable disability Ontario is not adequately addressing. Spending $150,000 on prevention saves $1.6 million in treatment. Prevention is more than just raising awareness about the dangers of drinking in pregnancy. Addressing the inequities that exist in our province with respect to the social determinants of health such as poverty and social exclusion would significantly decrease the incidence of FASD. We need to promote the low-risk drinking guidelines for all people in their childbearing years, develop policies that limit the potential for alcohol abuse and involve all health-care providers in screening for risky alcohol use and education about the dangers of drinking above the low-risk drinking guidelines. FASD impacts the health of Ontarians, their families and communities across all determinants of health. It creates poverty and secondary health issues while increasing costs to associated social services, education, health care, community services, and the criminal justice system. It breaks families and entire communities.
The time for an integrated provincial strategy is now!
Read the full submission below.
Pregnancy and Substance Abuse Webinar - Dec. 11, 2013
Interim Report of the Select Committee on Developmental Services, tabled in the Ontario Legislature on Wednesday, March 5, 2014
FASD feature story in the Registered Nurse Journal, Nov-Dec. 2013 Edition
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada - Pregnancy