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J FAS Int 2003;1:e14 - Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in the Canadian Corrections System


Background

The availability of services for diagnosis and management of people with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND), or Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE) in the Canadian corrections system is currently unknown.

Methods

Provincial and territorial corrections systems were asked to complete a questionnaire on the demographics of the population and services related to FAS. Responses were obtained from eleven of the thirteen provinces and territories invited to participate.

Results
The provinces and territories reported a total population of offenders of 148,797. In the eleven responding entities, the mean rate of substance abuse was 50.5%. Of the total population, 13 inmates had a reported diagnosis of FAS for a prevalence rate of 0.087 per 1,000 population. In the Yukon Territory the correction system estimated that 2.6% of offenders had FAS. None of the entities reported having a screening program for FAS in the corrections system. Three out of eleven entities (27.3%) reported having access to diagnostic services for FAS. The staff training needs reported in this study were very substantial.

Interpretation

Corrections systems reported few diagnosed cases of FAS and multiple unmet needs to screen, identify and manage offenders with FAS. Further research is required to identify strategies for low cost expansion of services to screen, identify and manage offenders with FAS. These studies should also examine the potential impact of these services to increase the success rates of substance abuse treatment, other intervention programs, and the potential to decrease recidivism.

The North Dakota Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Center, University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

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