Health minister says Canadian need to avoid judging those addicted to opioids.


As the opioid epidemic continues to march across the country, destroying an ever increasing number of lives, the federal health minister says people have fallen into the habit of passing judgment on those who are addicted to the drug.

Ginette Petitpas Taylor, who spent 25 years working with the RCMP in Codiac, N.B. as a social worker, says she saw people struggle with the stigma of addiction all too often.

“It’s easy to judge, it really is, until you’re someone personally affected by this situation. Many times we just don’t realize these people have a story. And they’re our loved ones and they have families. So it’s a struggle for a lot of people,” Pettipas Taylor told CBC News.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said there were 2,816 “apparent opioid related deaths” in Canada in 2016. That’s an average of eight people a day.

A breakdown of those numbers shows a problem with illicit fentanyl in the West, but in Eastern Canada, the crisis is fuelled by prescription opioids.

  • What will stop the deadly march of opioids and fentanyl?
  • Opioid poisonings land 16 Canadians in hospital each day on average, 53% jump over 10 years

Petitpas Taylor said the other issue is that not everyone understands the scope of the problem.

“I think, [in] my personal view, it depends on where you live. I know that coming from the Maritimes, probably, the reality really hasn’t hit there yet,” Petitpas Taylor said.

One of the first things Petitpas Taylor did after being sworn in was to visit a supervised drug injection site in B.C.

“When I was out in Kelowna, B.C., it was something they talk about regularly. In my riding [Moncton–Riverview–Dieppe in New Brunswick], do I think it’s something that comes up regularly? Probably not,” she added.

Supervised consumption sites
The day the Public Health Agency of Canada released its latest fatality statistics, the minister stopped by the Shepherds of Good Hope in Ottawa, a homeless shelter with a program designed to help people with addictions.

The person who runs the shelter, Deirdre Freitheit, told the minister what the facility needs most is for the federal government to approve their application for a supervised drug injection site — it’s currently being reviewed by Health Canada.

“The federal government could help enormously by approving Ottawa Inner City Health’s exemption to provide safe consumption services in the locations where they provide services, the first priority of which is Shepherds of Good Hope. Given the current overdose crisis, services in Ottawa are required immediately,” Freitheit wrote to CBC.

A memorial service was held this summer to remember those who have died in B.C as a result of the drug overdose crisis. According to the B.C. Coroners’ Service, up to the end of June, 780 people have died after overdosing on illicit drugs in the province. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Petitpas Taylor said these sites are not the only option available to communities struggling with the crisis; another is streamlining the process for prescribing methadone.

Right now, doctors who want to prescribe methadone as treatment need a special licence from Health Canada.

“If doctors, general practitioners, would want to use that as well, there’s certain processes we could streamline to make it easier,” Petitpas Taylor said.

Another piece of the puzzle, according the health minister, is making sure people with addictions and mental health issues have access to treatment programs. Part of the new health care funding from Ottawa is earmarked for this, and both the federal and provincial governments have been considering how that money should be spent.

Petitpas Taylor said the discussion stage is coming to an end and “the money will be rolling out to the provinces very soon.”

Retrieved from:

Support for those with FASD


About four per cent of Cold Lake residents have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, meaning they are people with cognitive disabilities because their mothers drank alcohol during pregnancy. That is about 600 people.

Ten years ago, a number of these individuals would have found themselves in trouble with the law, said Aubrey McFarlane, executive director at the Lakeland Centre for FASD, since those with FASD can have poor impulse control and poor anger management skills.

“They had poor outcomes,” said McFarlane.

But she said services like those being offered at the Lakeland Centre for FASD have improved that.

“We can make diagnoses and we can help adults affected find employment and help youths plan and succeed with adulthood,” said McFarlane.

She said the women in university or college face the biggest risk when it comes to having babies with FASD.

“There is a risk from pre-conception right through the entire pregnancy,” said McFarlane, adding the only way to ensure one’s baby isn’t born with FASD is to abstain completely from alcohol if one is sexually active.

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to FASD.

“A lot of people think the mothers are mostly indigenous or have addictions issues. This is not true,” said McFarlane. “All races are affected equally. We need to reduce the shame and blame towards women when it comes to this issue.”

Despite all the work of the Lakeland Centre for FASD, McFarlane said there are still a number of people out there that are not supported, which is why the centre hosted a free pancake breakfast and mocktail challenge on Sept. 8 to help raise awareness around the issue.

The Institute of Health Economics estimates that 46,000 Albertans are living with FASD, and about 500 babies in the province will be born with FASD this year.

The Alberta government committed $18.45 million this year for assessment and diagnosis, prevention and support programs for those living with FASD.

Retrieved from:



How much Alcohol during Pregnancy?


Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pa. – If a woman drinks alcohol when she’s pregnant, her child can be born with a condition called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD.

On Monday, state health and welfare officials spoke out to raise awareness of the disorder in hopes of preventing it. FASD can cause severe physical and developmental abnormalities.

Supporters of the awareness campaign say any alcohol use, especially in the early days of pregnancy can result in FASD.

“The first trimester and those first few weeks are a time of exponential growth, however the brain and central nervous system is developing  throughout the whole pregnancy, so it’s never too late to stop drinking to get treatment and to give your baby the best chance in life,” said Maureen Cronin, Executive Director of  the ARC of Pennsylvania

According to the C-D-C, studies show that FASD occurs in about 0.2 to 1.5 out of  every 1,000 live births.

Retrieved from:

How FASD impacts us all


As I was watching the news coverage around Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign on mental illness, I was struck by the similarities between these invisible disabilities and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.  As a parent of a daughter with FASD and two other children on the 15 month wait list for diagnosis, our entire lives are centred around this disability.  Our 100-acre farm in the country, our children’s alternative schooling options, our work situations of special education teacher and employment counsellor, our network of social services, and our extended family locations are all in place to help our children with their disabilities.  Without these supports, we know our children would not achieve the same level of success as other children.

In a study done by Svetlana Popova and funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, over 75% of people with FASD will struggle with the feel of things like clothing, receiving and expressing communication, noise sensitivities and hearing loss, and ADHD-like symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention, focus, anxiety and anger.  FASD also lowers life expectancy by 10 years.

However, a small study done in Alberta placed life expectancy at 34 years due to at-risk behaviour associated with mental illnesses.  In a study of 80 birth mothers with children born with FASD done by Astley in 2000, it was found 96% of those mothers had a mental health disorder—with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder being the most common.  However, according to the Alberta Clinical Recommendations in 1999, supportive counselling for mothers with a mental health disorder can reduce the risk of a FASD child by more than half.  FASD is listed as the number one preventable disability and one of the very few disabilities that can’t be passed from parent to child genetically.  Finally, FASD impacts 300,000 people in Canada with approximately 70% of those people living in urban settings to the cost of 4-6 billion dollars per year through health, education, social services and justice systems.

But just like with mental health disorders, FASD is a manageable disability as demonstrated by our amazing children.  My oldest daughter is our animal whisperer.  Whether it is training the dog, the horses, the donkey, the cows, and the pigs, she can handle them all.  Through her high school, she is gaining her credits through workplace environments and at 17 years of age, she knows she does well in outside environments, doing manual labour, avoiding the public and helping animals.

Our middle daughter is the baker and babysitter.  With her unlimited optimism, ready smile, and patience galore, she also has found her niche.  We are so blessed to be able to come home from work and have supper ready to go.  We never are concerned about leaving the children because we know our middle daughter will keep her head.

Our last child is our buddy.  He is the one who can watch me do something once and immediately copy it.  He is the one who built a table at the age of nine using his hammer, screwdrivers and saw.  He will go to the bush and chop down trees for hours.

However, despite their obvious gifts and talents, they also need supports and structure.  Every day of the week has a morning, afternoon, and evening routine.  They work at places that don’t ask them to problem solve.  They get their directions and they follow them.  They have technology that figures out money, time and locations for them.  They use their computers to read and write.  They have tools, strategies and medication to help them cope with anxiety, fear and anger.  They also have mentors that help them understand social cues and norms.  They all have quiet places they can go to relax, both at home and at school.  Finally, they have friends and family who are always ready to step in and listen.

While our children have FASD, it is not what defines them.  Just like anyone else, they have their strengths and needs.  And just like anyone with a mental illness, they know they can’t do it by themselves.  As our First Nations have said for centuries, it takes a community to raise a child.  We must always be ready to listen and help.  And when we see them succeed, we celebrate their success because we know and appreciate what they have accomplished.  And when they or anyone else in our community succeeds, it impacts us all.

If you would like to learn more on how you can help, please attend the 1st annual Eastern Ontario FASD Symposium March 31 and April 1 in Ottawa.

Not only the father of three amazing children, Rob More is a special education teacher and writes a blog called Give Us More Special Needs where he shares his conversations with the Ministry of Child and Youth Services and with his Member of Parliament about FASD.  He is also a regular contributor to the Citizen Advocacy site.  He will also be sharing his knowledge at the FASD Symposium in Ottawa and will be published in the fall issue of Focus on Adoption. He also runs a summer tech camp for special needs children, Morehaven MakerSpace Camp.

Retrieved from:

FASD Program hosts free bbq


The Catholic Social Services Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder program staff were serving up free food and information last week to raise awareness about FASD and the services the organization provides.

Misty Duckett, FASD program coordinator said people were really surprised when they found out the barbecue at the Wetaskiwin Co-op was free.

“We did this for FASD Awareness Day to bring awareness to how alcohol affects babies when you’re pregnant,” she said.

Although FASD Awareness Day was first recognized in 2007, this was the first event hosted in Wetaskiwin and, judging by the response and the support from Co-op, Duckett said they plan to do another one next year.

According to CanFASD, a Canadian research network, FASD is “an umbrella term that describes the range of effects that can occur in an individual who was prenatally exposed to alcohol, and includes FAS. These effects can include lifelong physical, mental, behavioural difficulties, and learning disabilities. Depending on the amount and the timing of alcohol exposure, a minority of infants exposed will also develop a characteristic pattern of facial features, and some will have a growth deficiency. However, those effects are relatively rare and have little impact on day-to-day function.”

“FASD is 100 per cent preventable,” said Duckett. “The common myth is it’s genetic and it’s not.”

There are a number of factors that determine the effects of alcohol on pregnancy, but because they vary so radically, abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy is the best course of action.

Through Catholic Social Services, which covers the area from Wetaskiwin to Drayton Valley, Ponoka and Camrose, Duckett said the FASD program provides supports to adults living with FASD including transportation, budgeting, grocery shopping and other day to day living assistance.

For children with FASD the program offers training to school staff and strategies “so the whole team of people are involved so that child is successful in school,” said Duckett.

They also provide in-home support for families of these children.

In addition, they offer prevention awareness presentations to parents and teachers of elementary school students.

They would like to get in and talk to high school students, but Duckett said those presentation have been difficult to coordinate.

“We’d love to go into the high schools,” she said.

Retrieved from:

Network Meeting October 3, 2017 Agenda

soil-media-strategyPlease joined us at our  October 3, 2017 EDMONTON FETAL ALCOHOL NETWORK MEETINGS

Date: Tuesday October 3, 2017

Location: Catholic Social Services – 10320 146 Street

Supports and Services Meeting: 8:30 – 9:30 am, AGENDA

  1. Call to order
  2. Approval last meeting minutes
  3. Reporting
  4. Finances
  5. Short-Term Crisis Intervention Worker
  6. Additions
  7. Program Updates

 EFAN Society Meeting: 9:30 – 11:30 am, AGENDA

  1. Call to order
  2. Approval last meeting minutes
  3. Finances
  4. New Research
  5. Council, Interagency, Committee Updates
  6. Additions
  7. Parade and FASD Day Working Groups 2018
  8. Program Updates

Click to download Agenda:  EFAN Agenda October 2017

Society needs to think about FASD in positive way


When Myles Himmelreich was a child and diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), the doctor only told his parents that he would have trouble learning and reading. But a lot more was going on mentally and physically.

Sitting in class at school, he couldn’t focus on what the teacher was saying because of his heightened senses: flickering lights, loud sounds, and the feel of clothing against his skin were continuous distractions.

So when the teacher would ask him for an answer, he wouldn’t know because he couldn’t focus on what was being said.

However, he was seen as not caring about learning and being lazy.

And what Himmelreich calls “bubble trouble” makes it difficult for him to sit still because he is constantly moving.

It was the same way when he got out of school and started working.

But he doesn’t spend time focusing on the negatives, he focuses on his strengths and says society needs to think this way too. What he wants people to know is what they can do to understand a person with FASD: instead of seeing their behaviours as bad, instead ask ‘where does this behaviour come from?’

FASD is a brain injury, similar to what people sometimes get in a car accident and the problem is it’s an invisible disability.

If someone is in a wheelchair, people would likely hold the door open for them; if you see someone wearing a hearing aid, you will speak louder.

In other words, when people see someone with a disability, they will accommodate that person but when they don’t see a disability, they think it’s the person’s behaviour that’s at fault.

It’s best to ask yourself how you can have more patience or understanding with the person or ask that person what works for him or her; how can we change to support the individual.

When FASD is discussed, it needs to be an informative conversation and not a judgmental one, said Himmelreich.

That includes greater understanding for mothers whose children have FASD because often, it’s not that they don’t care about their child and most children born with FASD don’t have mothers who are drunks, he said. It can be a woman who’s a casual drinker and when she finds out she’s pregnant, the baby could already have FASD, he said.

Himmelreich is part of a health survey looking at the physical characteristics of people with FASD.

People know the brain is affected by FASD but it affects the entire body and can cause higher rates of diseases and at earlier ages than the average population.

For example, there are people in their 20s with early onset dementia and 14-year-olds going through early menopause.

Himmelreich had arthritis in his knees and hips when he was 12 and he couldn’t ride a bike because it hurt too much.

The problem is doctors don’t think to diagnose these diseases in young people, he said.

He has his own meaning for FASD: F is for Faith that he has a purpose for being here; A is for Ability to focus on things and do them; S is for Strength to find what he’s good at doing; and D is for Determination to face struggles and if he gets knocked down to get up again.

Himmelreich was here last week to talk at the Kermode Friendship Society and REM Lee Theatre about his life because as he says, the best way to understand what it’s like to have FASD is to ask a person with it.

Retrieved from:

« Older Entries