District team aiming to curb FASD
The newly-formed FASD Community Partners of Rainy River District team is thrusting Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder into the spotlight as they try to prevent prenatal exposure to alcohol.
“We’re just in the beginning stages but what we want to do is just have a table to come together, pool resources for FASD services, [and] keep up-to-date on what’s out there,” explained Ashlee Grimard, program manager with the Gizhewaadiziwin Health Access Centre here.
“It’s open to anyone who is interested in terms of community services,” she remarked.
Grimard said the group, which was formed late last year, also is involved in a larger network within the region.
“It gives all of the networks a chance to get together and share what’s going on district to district,” she explained, noting the first meeting they had was really informative.
“It’s such a great opportunity to find out what Kenora is doing, what Dryden is doing,” she reasoned.
“Because a lot of the time those services are available throughout the region.”
In the meantime, the local FASD Community Partners of Rainy River District has been meeting monthly and together will host keynote speaker, Jody Allen Crowe (an expert in the field of prenatal exposure to alcohol), for two separate sessions.
One session, which will be held March 7 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Townshend Theatre here, will be geared toward community agencies and
The first session—slated for March 6 from 7-9 p.m. at the Métis Hall—will be open to the public.
“It’s a unique opportunity for service providers in the community to come together with the school board,” noted Grimard, adding educational assistants with the Rainy River District School Board will be in attendance for the March 7 session.
“With an issue like this, we need to be connected,” Grimard stressed.
“We need to be talking to one another. We need to all be getting the same information.”
There is still room available in this session for local service providers.
Those interested can contact Krista Smith at 270-0050 ext. 5303
Meanwhile, the Thursday session is free and open to parents, caregivers, and anyone else interested in learning more about FASD.
“It was important for us to have him [Crowe] be able to address the community, too, so he can answer questions and provide some education,” Grimard reasoned.
“So we’re really excited about this event,” she added.
Grimard said Crowe is world-renowned for his work in the field, and has been featured on “The Doctors,” “Anderson Cooper Live,” ABC News, and in the New York Times.
He has spent 18 years on reservations as a teacher, principal, and superintendent, where he learned first-hand the devastation of prenatal exposure to alcohol.
Crowe developed award-winning school programs designed around the research of brain damage from prenatal exposure to alcohol, is the founder of the non-profit organization “Healthy Brains for Children,” and is the author of “The Fatal Link—Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.”
Grimard said through “Healthy Brains for Children,” the local group is looking to install a pregnancy test dispenser in the area.
She noted Child and Family Services here already has one dispenser that’s yet to be installed.
“We’re looking at how to get that into a community business where alcohol is served,” Grimard explained, saying women are encouraged to take a pregnancy test before they consume alcohol.
“We’ll also provide some promotional material—test before you drink,” she added.
Grimard said those at the highest risk for drinking while pregnant are white professional single women, teenagers in foster placement, low-income blue-collar women, indigenous women, and women aged 22-29 reporting 70 percent of unwanted/unplanned pregnancies.
“It’s an issue that’s not going away,” she stressed.
“With FASD, it’s a spectrum disorder, so the people on the low end of the spectrum, you might not even know that is what that person is dealing with,” she explained.
“You can point out impulsivity or some learning issues and we, as practitioners, can say, I wonder if they might be on the spectrum, but it’s so difficult to actually pinpoint.
“So we’re seeing it every single day,” added Grimard, though noting it might not be the full-blown FASD that people picture, with the physical changes.
With some funding becoming available, the FASD Community Partners of Rainy River District team is trying to be proactive to help prevent prenatal exposure to alcohol locally.