What is Bill S-253?
In October 2022, the Honourable Senator Mohamed-Iqbal Ravalia introduced Bill S-253 in the Senate of Canada. This Bill outlines the development of a national framework designed to support Canadians with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, their families, and their caregivers. The Bill is currently at second reading in the Senate, and hopefully will be referred to Committee soon.
Why do we need a National Framework for FASD?
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is the leading cause of neurodevelopmental disability in Canada, affecting 4% of the population. The prevalence of FASD is greater than Autism, Down Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy combined.
Not solely a healthcare issue, FASD intersects with homelessness, substance use, education, criminal justice, mental health, child welfare, social services, family health, and more.
The statistics are alarming. Recent studies show 90% of people with FASD will experience mental health issues. They are over 20 times more likely to face substance use challenges. And 35% of teens with FASD report suicidal ideation, with 13% reporting at least one serious suicide attempt in the past year.
Due to its complicated nature, a systemic, coordinated, evidence-based approach to FASD prevention, diagnosis, intervention, and lifetime support is vital. We need a National FASD Strategy that ensures that all people with FASD and their families have full and equitable access to the resources they need.
National FASD Strategy
What is FASD?
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a lifelong disability impacting the brain and body of people who were exposed to alcohol during fetal development. Each individual with FASD is unique and has areas of both strengths and challenges and will need supports to help them succeed in their daily lives.
What would a National Strategy look like?
Bill S-253 requires that the Minister of Health create and implement a framework for FASD that:
- Educates health care and other professional on FASD prevention, diagnosis, and support
- Promotes research and knowledge translation;
- Sets national standards for FASD prevention, diagnosis, and support;
- Raises awareness of FASD and the risks of alcohol consumption in pregnancy; and
- Identifies any other measures necessary to improve outcomes
A National framework would be made in consultation with other ministers, representatives from provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous communities, and relevant stakeholders including self-advocates, caregivers, service providers, and support people.
A National FASD Strategy should be person-centred, include first-person perspectives, be culturally appropriate for the diversity of Canada’s population, and reflect the needs of Canada’s northern, rural, and remote communities. It would also ensure that critically needed multilevel supports are available for pregnant women and new mothers and their children, so that prevention of FASD that is effective, respectful and addresses social determinants of health receives attention and action.
We cannot afford to wait much longer to address FASD at a national level. The annual cost per case of FASD is estimated at $27,000 and the incremental cost per case of FASD over a lifespan is estimated at $1.1 million. Many of the costs associated with FASD can be reduced with the implementation of effective leadership for social policies and intervention and support programs. These numbers don’t take into account the intangible costs of FASD, such as the cost of pain, suffering, stress, and stigmatization.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the challenges that this population is facing. Canada is in desperate need for our leadership to establish a plan to support people with FASD, their families, pregnant and parenting couples, and those who assist them.
How can you help?
Ask your Member of Parliament to support Bill S-253. Learn as much as you can about FASD in your profession and within your area. Talk to your friends and family members to raise awareness.
Express your support for Bill S-253 publicly and talk about this issue amongst your colleagues and party members. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how FASD interacts with your field and your constituents.