Dear Mr. Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth ServicesInside Ottawa Valley
I am writing in regards to the status of Ontario’s strategy for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Parliamentary Assistant Granville Anderson wrote a report to the Minister of Youth and Children Services which was released to the public in September 2015 http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/documents/specialneeds/fasd/FASD_Roundtable_Report.pdf. It has now been 17 months since its publication and your ministry website states the FASD strategy is currently under construction and will be announced soon. However, it has said that for over 12 months now.
As I would hope you are aware, FASD has had a major impact on our province for decades and the need for Ontario to tackle this crippling issue has never been higher. Within the report, it is stated that FASD costs Canada about 2-6 billion dollars a year. When you consider Ontario’s population is 38.5% of Canada, it can be assumed FASD costs Ontario 1 to 2 billion dollars a year. And as Mr. Anderson stated in the second paragraph of the report in bold print, “What makes the issue of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder worthy of our commitment is we know that with the right information, programs, services and supports, FASD is preventable. “ When you consider that our current budget for education is 25 billion, special education is 2.75 billion a year and health is 50 billion a year, does it not make sense to give FASD the priority it deserves?
We know the prevalence for FASD is high due to the lack of education on this issue. However, information is limited due to a lack of programming, services and supports. All of this requires a coordinated and comprehensive strategy which this report explains in great detail. It is interesting that BC, Alberta, Manitoba, and now New Brunswick have already developed their own strategies which Ontario can use as well. We do know that it is 28 more times likely that an inmate will have FASD compared to the general population, that special education prevalence is on the rise, and that our northern communities are struggling to deal with this issue. We can’t afford to wait any longer to tackle this preventable issue. I find it troubling that this issue doesn’t seem to have much priority for you. As we continue to struggle with our debt, our sluggish economy, our rising hydro costs, increased crime rates and our medical wait times, FASD continues to increase our debt, raise our unemployment, lower our housing requirements, populate our prisons, and increase our medical needs to the cost of 2 billion dollars a year. I challenge you to find a costlier issue for our children and youth. Finally, when you consider that alcohol-related issues are the fifth deadliest reason in the world, the FASD strategy should be your number one priority as we approach this 2018 election. I look forward to your reply as to the status of Ontario’s FASD strategy and its implemented timeline.
Smiths Falls, ON