International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day falls on the ninth day of the ninth month of every year to honour the length of pregnancy. Ahead of FASD Awareness Day on September 9, the FNHA Mental Health and Wellness team is sharing a unique and inspired collaboration and strength-based approach to FASD assessment and support.
The Asante Centre is a non-profit organization based in Maple Ridge that provides specialized services for individuals living with FASD and other developmental diversities. In 2018, Esk'etemc Health Services in Alkali Lake, BC, hosted an information event on FASD and FASD Assessments. In response to community interest and drive, they invited The Asante Centre to collaborate on a project to bring Asante's comprehensive assessment and support team to the community.
The project's innovative approach allowed children to stay in the community for assessments. The Asante team was welcomed traditionally with a feast and ceremony. The team had the opportunity to work directly with community supports and the families throughout the assessment process. This was a significant shift from the standard practice of asking families to travel to the Fraser Valley to access services.
All who participated felt the strength and impact of having the community together to drive and celebrate the work. “Everyone from the Asante team in the lower mainland came to the community and stayed for five days," says Renee McKeown, who is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) with the Esk'etemc Health Centre. “The kids felt more comfortable and more relaxed and the team got to meet other members of the community in addition to family members. It was a really positive experience for everybody. We've since had other families ask if we can set this up again."
“The FNHA Health and Wellness Team raises our hands in appreciation to Esk'etemc Health and Asante for their innovative project that tied the strength of the community to the exceptional specialized knowledge of the Asante team," says Toni Winterhoff, FNHA Specialist, Healthy Children.
Lisa Doff is a Speech-Language Pathologist with The Asante Centre. Lisa shares her experience with the project and gratitude to the Esk'etemc community.
Renee McKeown, LPN with the Esk'etemc Health Centre, describes the project and how it supported children through the assessment process.
For more information on the program, contact Renee McKeown at Esk'etemc Health Services or call 250-440-5611. Visit the Esk'etemc community on Facebook at @esketemcnews.