Project to help people with FASD in justice system lauched by Maple Ridge centre: The Asante Centre collaborating with researchers from across Canada

COLLEEN FLANAGAN, posted Feb. 17, 2022 12:00 p.m.

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Asante Centre executive director Sharon DeLalla. (The Asante Centre/Special to The News)

Asante Centre executive director Sharon DeLalla. (The Asante Centre/Special to The News)

The Asante Centre will be embarking on a project with the B.C. legal community to improve services and supports to people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, (FASD), who are in the justice system.

The goal of the three year project is not only to help those with FASD, but those with other neurodevelopmental conditions as well. The aim is to be able to identify people who may be living with a fetal alcohol or neurodevelopmental disorders, so legal professionals can make accommodations to their practice to better support those individuals.

A grant of $844,000 was awarded by the Law Foundation of British Columbia that will go, in part, towards updating an existing screening tool for FASD, already used by experts at the Asante Centre to help professionals in the legal system. Help will also be given to legal and justice professionals across the province to become FASD-informed.

Canada FASD Research Network, (CanFASD), is collaborating on the project with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Society for BC – the governing body of the Asante Centre – along with researchers from across the country including: Dr. Kaitlyn McLachlan from the University of Guelph; Dr. Jacqueline Pei from the University of Alberta; and Dr. Mansfield Mela from the University of Saskatchewan.

“We are thrilled to have received this support from The Law Foundation of British Columbia and to have the opportunity to work with such expert research partners,” said Asante Centre executive director, Sharon DeLalla, adding that a project of this scope and magnitude is long overdue in B.C. and across the country.

According to information provided by the Asante Centre, FASD often goes unrecognized or undiagnosed in the legal system. As many as 30 to 60 per cent of people with FASD, seen in clinical contexts, have reported an experience with the criminal justice system. In addition, the prevalence of FASD in correctional and forensic settings is estimated to be as high as 10-23 per cent.

The impact of FASD – on the social, behavioral, and physical functioning of a person – often results in these individuals constantly cycling through the justice system. And, traditional sentences and conditions that they are asked to meet are often not achievable.

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