Communities across Canada are becoming increasingly aware of issues related to pregnancy, alcohol and substance use, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and child health and development. In many communities, the needs of pregnant women with substance use issues are of particular concern as they often intersect with issues such as poverty, unsafe or inadequate housing, violence and abuse, food insecurity, and other health and social issues. Many people are asking questions about how to support women and their babies/young children so that they can have a healthy and safe start in life.
In the early 1990s, several communities began to develop integrated responses to addressing the needs of pregnant and parenting women with substance use issues. These early programs included Sheway in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and Breaking the Cycle in Toronto. Nearly 20 years later, the research evidence clearly supports this type of program as an effective way of addressing the needs of pregnant and parenting women who use substances.
While all these programs are different in philosophy and mandate, they all seek to provide a range of services under one roof (a “onestop shop” or “single-access” model), address women’s needs from a holistic perspective, provide practical and emotional support, and strive to reduce barriers to accessing care and support. Another important similarity is that all of these programs started as a unique network of cross-sectoral partnerships that developed a common vision, values, and goals.
In the following document the Canada FASD Research Network has profiled the development of single-access programs in four different communities and talk about why this type of program works.