Challenges related to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder go beyond health care system

Elliot Lake – The challenges faced by families and communities dealing with individuals affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) mean that the implications extend well beyond the limits of health services and budgets, according to Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, MP, Carol Hughes.

Hughes made her remarks as a guest speaker during the North Shore Tribal Council’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder conference today.  She stressed a multi-pronged approach to prepare individuals to succeed in society as opposed to allowing for more predictable outcomes to run their course.

 “While it might be tempting to view this as merely a health problem, it would be wrong to consider it only in those terms  since there is ample evidence that cases of FASD can lead to a life of interventions with the potential for legal and child welfare issues – for example – to play a big role as well,” said Hughes.

Hughes said Canadians must listen to Justice Murray Sinclair who warns that all of society will feel the impact if we allow the condition to grow at such a rate.  In her opinion the biggest challenge to putting a dent in this trend is how resources are allocated.

“Without an upfront approach that puts resources where they are most needed we may be spinning our wheels,” said Hughes.  “Money we are choosing not to spend on health and community support could well be spent through the justice and child welfare budgets.”

Hughes said that FASD carries very high costs for the affected individual, the family and society.  She quoted Canadian research that showed the cost for medical, education, social services, out-of-pocket costs; and indirect costs including factors such as lost productivity averages out to $21,642 a year per individual.

“It is clear that we are faced with a challenge that amounts to a significant outlay of public expenses,” said Hughes.  “The decision we are faced with is whether we want to pay the ledger up front or as the lives of those affected play out in somewhat predictable fashion with often tragic consequences. “