by Robert More

The Rural FASD Support Network is pleased to confirm the 2nd FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) Awareness Day will be held at Queen’s Park on Feb. 24, 2020, from 10am to 1pm in room 230. We thank MPP Steve Clark for sponsoring FASD Awareness Day at Queen’s Park, and his continued support for our families as well as MPP Monique Taylor (NDP) who has also championed the need for more effective FASD supports and strategies.

On the first FASD community awareness day (April 11, 2018), two notable milestones took place: September 9th was officially recognized as International FASD Awareness Day in Ontario; and Bill 44 (which later became Bill 91) to amend the Education Act unanimously passed 1st reading with multi-party support. Around the same time, Dr. Popova of the Kids Brain Health Network released her ground-breaking research establishing FASD prevalence in the GTA for children ages 9-11 at 3-4%. This is astounding when you consider the current prevalence rate for Autism in this same population base is 1.52% according to 2018 National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System.

The Rural FASD Support Network is made up of more than 100 families, and as we have continued to advocate for individuals living with FASD, it has been clear that further awareness is needed to effect a true provincial FASD strategy for all Ontario. 8 currently sitting MPPs, along with members of their staffs, attended the original FASD Awareness Day in April 2018. Since that time, the Rural FASD Support Network has engaged with journalists and the media to bring greater awareness to the public about this lifetime neurological disability: Vanessa Hrvatin of the National Post, Christine Maki of CBC News, Dr. Brian Goldman of White Coat, Black Art on CBC Radio, and Steve Paikin of The Agenda; as well as community partnerships with the Ottawa Senators and Sens Army. Through our work, the Rural FASD Support Network partnered with Health Nexus, during their development of Ontario’s provincial hub for FASD; Citizen Advocacy Ottawa and its highly successful Fetal Alcohol Resource Program; as well as the research teams at CanFASD and Kids Brain Health Network.

In anticipation of the upcoming event in February 2020, and with policy input from the Fetal Alcohol Resource Program and CanFASD that is further informed by the lived experience of the Rural FASD Support Network families, we have identified nine Ontario ministries and 23 proposed legislative changes. It is our hope that through these changes greater public consultation will result and eventually a provincial strategy will be established. These changes are based on the strategies of British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon and demonstrate more than a decade of evidence and effectiveness, as well as remaining consistent with the Ontario Roundtable Report of 2015. Thanks to the support of the Kids Brain Health Network and Beckwith Township, at least 12 families and their children will attend on Feb. 24th, sharing their stories and personal insights that illustrate the critical need for these changes.

Leading up to the February 24th event, we will be sharing with you each of these proposed legislative changes, why they work and the impact they will have on the estimated 300,000+ Ontarians with this disability. It should be noted most of these changes do not require additional funding but rather focus on creating awareness and changing eligibility criteria for the current funding to include individuals with FASD.

Thank you for your commitment to serving the people of Ontario; we look forward to collaborating with you in finding long-term and sustainable solutions for those with FASD.

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