September is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) month. Since 1999, FASD activists have held World FASD Awareness Day events on 09/09 to represent the nine months of pregnancy, often highlighted with a bell ringing ceremony at 9:09 am. FASD is a lifelong disorder that affects people from all walks of life. It occurs as a result of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) and can result in a range of disabilities. In Alberta alone, approximately 46,000 individuals are currently impacted by FASD. Adults living with FASD face challenges daily due to the invisible nature of the disability impacting executive functions in the brain. Individuals with FASD often experience challenges with motor skills, daily living skills, emotional regulation, physical health, learning, attention, communication, memory, and social skills. Community support and on-site services can help them live independent and sustainable lives. Here at Bissell Centre we use a Person-Centered Planning approach in a holistic manner to provide a variety of services to support men and women with FASD.
FASD is a spectrum disorder that affects each individual differently.
Bissell Centre understands that FASD is a spectrum disorder that affects each individual differently. We strive to offer a variety of supports that accommodate the uniqueness of each person. Our Parent Child Advocacy Program (PCAP) is for pregnant women or those up to 6 months postpartum who are at high risk of using substances. PCAP helps them have healthy pregnancies, healthy babies, and healthier post-partum outcomes. The PCAP model is focused on harm reduction and is not abstinence based, though that may be a goal. The Adult Advocacy program provides outreach services to individuals with FASD, meeting them where they are at, brokering connections to government and community resources, and encouraging familial connections. Both programs follow a three year progression – the first year is building a therapeutic relationship with the advocate, the second year is interdependence, and the third year is successfully transitioning in to the community at large. Hope Terrace is a Permanent Supportive Housing program (PSH) where trained and equipped Bissell Centre staff provide a respectful, collaborative, and non-judgmental approach when interacting with residents under a harm reduction philosophy. The goal of Hope Terrace is to provide stable housing for individuals that have experienced chronic episodes of being houseless. Through on-site supports such as 24/7 Personal Support Workers, a Mental Health and Addictions Coordinator, and an Occupational therapist we are able to provide a holistic approach in order to achieve stable, permanent housing for our individuals that experience being houseless due to the complex nature of FASD.
Bissell Centre also focuses on increasing FASD knowledge and understanding within the community of support workers and other stakeholders, such as the police and emergency services. We organize and facilitate monthly FASD Frontline meetings where workers can bring challenges, issues, and concerns to the table to brainstorm around best strategies and practices to support people with FASD. These meetings help prevent information silos and enable networking opportunities. As well as have presenters come in to speak about programs and topics that are relevant to the work that the frontline workers do, which may supplement their resource knowledge.
It is through these programs that we can empower individuals who are living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).