Ministers Working Collaboratively on FASD prevention and intervention

Doug Graham, MLA for Porter Creek North

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, September 27th, 2013
by Doug Graham, Minister of Health & Social Services

The tragedy of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder, or FASD, is one that touches all Yukoners in one way or another. FASD is a life-long condition that cannot be cured and those with the disability require ongoing support to lead functional and rewarding lives.

It’s not often that a minister can dedicate three full days to one issue, but this week I had just that opportunity. Along with Health and Social Services staff, I attended two events in Edmonton – an international conference, involving 35 countries, on prevention of FASD and a meeting of the Canada Northwest FASD Partnership, whose members include Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The Yukon government and key groups within our territory have been leaders in looking at the issue of FASD for many years. Work has focussed on research, provision of support and prevention.
Health and Social Services developed Yukon’s first FASD diagnostic team for preschool children (including therapists, physicians and psychologists), working with the Child Development Centre. Our government also provides a number of supports for women and families. Early screening, diagnosis and support can make a world of difference in improving the lives of people with this incurable condition. As well, we have created a wide range of materials to create awareness of this issue and encourage prevention. (For more information, go to www.hss.gov.yk.ca.)

We must, however, do more. We are looking within the department of Health and Social Services to see how we can better integrate social services, health services, mental health and addictions services. We want to make sure that when individuals come to us, we can be ready to help, no matter which door they knock on.

This week’s events were an invaluable opportunity to hear what is happening across western and northern Canada, as well as internationally. With an issue as challenging and pervasive as FASD, our best hope is in working together to find the most promising and innovative approaches for prevention and intervention, as well as the best ways to care for and support those living with FASD. I have asked my department officials to discuss what we heard this week and recommend how we might be able to incorporate new ideas into the work we are already doing.

This is a community issue, as well as a global one, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to interact with people from around the world who care about those afflicted with FASD.