CBC: Adults can’t get diagnosed with FASD in Manitoba, which keeps them out of special court

Adults can’t be formally diagnosed with FASD in Manitoba, which keeps them from accessing a special Manitoba court designed specifically for them. (Bert Savard/CBC)

A unique court set up last year in Manitoba to handle offenders with fetal alcohol disorder still can’t serve a wide swath of the population because there’s no one in the province who can diagnose adults.

“We’re missing a piece there,” said Crown prosecutor Jodi Koffman, who oversees cases in the FASD court and is the point person for its youth matters.

Manitoba created a special court 10 months ago to hear cases involving those with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders — disorders affecting the brain and body, caused when the fetus is exposed to alcohol. Official diagnosis is required to access the special hearings.

However, the Manitoba FASD Diagnostic Clinic, the only clinic in Manitoba that diagnoses the disorder, only has staff trained in pediatrics.

“There’s a lot of people who are suspected to have FASD,” Koffman said. “But given the fact that they don’t have the prior diagnosis, they don’t get the benefit of going on the FASD docket.”

In the past 15 years, more than 500 undiagnosed adults were referred for services to the province’s FASD Justice Program, a spokesperson for Manitoba Justice said. The FASD Justice program predates the court and seeks out support services for offenders with the disorder.

None of those people could be diagnosed in Manitoba because the diagnostic clinic, which is funded by Manitoba Health through the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, doesn’t offer adult diagnoses — except for rare circumstances in which patients are referred before their 18th birthday but become adults while on the waiting list.

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The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Edmonton and area Fetal Alcohol Network Society, its stakeholders or funders.

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