BC's only adult assessment clinic for FASD in dire need of help to stay open

In danger of closing doors

The only adult assessment clinic in B.C. for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder will, in all likelihood, have to close its doors.

One might expect that clinic to be in Vancouver, Victoria, maybe even Kelowna or Prince George – but it is in Vernon. But perhaps for not very much longer.

Interim executive director Candice Burnett says FASD Okanagan will have to cease operations by the end of summer "unless we get sustainable core funding."

The society has been limping along on a "shoestring budget," but needs more money to continue.

Burnett is the only paid staff member, a past executive director has been volunteering, and its clinical work is done by practicum students and medical volunteers.

The clinic, located inside the Vernon People Place, gets calls and emails for help from across the province "every week."

Burnett says FASD is not just a childhood problem.

"It's a full-body, entire life disability that's not getting the attention it deserves.

"There's tons of funding for kids, but not for adults."

She's grateful for bridge and project funding from the province and local foundations, but without reliable funding, "we're going down."

Burnett says the board will meet in two weeks, at which time "we will have to make a decision."

"We're throwing out a Hail Mary to see if there are any other options."

The society has about 60 clients who it may see "once or twice a year, or four times a week," depending on how they are doing.

It offers education, awareness on prevention, assessments, supports, help accessing income and tax benefits, and even accompanies clients when they have to deal with legal, medical or other appointments that many be overwhelming. FASD can affect all aspects of their life, she says.

Burnett says Canada is a leader in FASD treatment, but B.C. has dropped the ball.

For example, Alberta has 16 adult clinics to B.C.'s one – despite B.C. having one of the highest prevalence rates of FASD.

Burnett says closure is "inevitable ... if we cannot acquire sustainable funding. Despite our best efforts and reaching out to leadership, we have been unsuccessful."

Contact the FASD Valley Assessment and Support Society at 250-938-5022 or [email protected].

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