HerWay Home Program for Pregnant Women and New Mothers in Victoria, BC

New program addresses maternal alcohol and drug use with a range of services under one roof

After six years of planning and research by a volunteer committee of 30 experts, community organizations, advocates and educators, the HerWay Home program began working with women and children on January 7, 2013.

Located in the James Bay Community Project, HerWay Home is a child-focused, women-centred, family-oriented drop-in and outreach program for pregnant women and new moms with substance use challenges and their children.

Women do not need a referral to access the program. The program expects to work with about 70 women in the first year and 100 to 150 in the second year. Currently, there are four staff members who support women accessing a range of services to meet their individual needs. Services include meals during drop-in hours, grocery store food vouchers, health care during and after pregnancy, alcohol, drug and mental-health support, and parenting support.

Read the press release (February 8, 2013) from the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island here. Check out the news coverage New Victoria program helps new moms with addictions (Cindy E. Harnett, Feb 7, 2013).

For more on HerWay Home, see earlier post: Herway Home ‘one-stop access’ program in Victoria set to open (May 20, 2012).

Learn more about the development of HerWay Home and similar programs across Canada in Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Women Who Use Substances: What Communities Are Doing to Help by members of the Canada FASD Research Network.

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Minimum Alcohol Pricing Policies: Making the Connection to FASD Prevention

ottawa parliament

As approximately 4% of all deaths worldwide can be attributed to alcohol consumption, governments around the world are looking for policy approaches that can reduce the harms of alcohol use and misuse at a population level.

One policy approach that governments are increasingly looking at is minimum alcohol pricing. Minimum alcohol prices help to avoid situations where very low prices entice individuals into purchasing and consuming more alcohol than they otherwise might. Minimum price policies can also help set prices in relation to the percentage of alcohol content that a product has — higher prices for higher alcohol content.

There is strong and growing evidence that:

  • reduced alcohol consumption lowers rates of alcohol-related illnesses, injuries and social problems;
  • high-strength products are associated with risky patterns of alcohol consumption;
  • younger and heavier drinkers tend to choose cheaper alcohol.

So, what does minimum pricing have to do with FASD prevention? Quite a lot actually. An individual woman’s pattern of alcohol consumption is deeply connected to the context in which she lives. A woman’s drinking patterns can be affected by the drinking patterns of her friends and partner, the typical drinking practices in the part of the country where she lives, the packaging size of alcoholic beverages, alcohol advertising legislation, and the geographic density of outlets that sell alcoholic beverages – just to name a few things. Many of these factors can be greatly influenced by policy.

Looking at alcohol policy as a solution to FASD prevention also allows us to shift from focusing on individual women (which often results in a lot of blaming, guilt, and pressure on pregnant women) and to find broader solutions that affect communities and populations and have many positive outcomes, not just a reduction in FASD.

Nootka Sound

A research study published this week in the journal Addiction provides more evidence to support minimum alcohol prices. Researchers from the Centre for Addictions Research of BC at the University of Victoria found that between 2002 and 2009, the percentage of deaths caused by alcohol in British Columbia dropped more than expected when the minimum alcohol price was increased. A 10% increase in the average minimum price for all alcoholic beverages was associated with a 32% reduction in wholly alcohol attributable deaths (this includes things such as alcohol abuse, poisonings due to alcohol, excess alcohol blood level). You can take a look at the press release (Feb 7 2013) for the study here.

This latest study shows that even the heaviest of drinkers reduce their alcohol consumption when minimum alcohol prices increase – an important finding for those concerned with FASD prevention. You could think of it as a different form of harm reduction.

The study is also interesting as it gives some insight into debates about how alcohol is sold. Over the time period for this study, policies changed to allow for the partial privatization of alcohol retail sales resulting in a substantial expansion of private liquor stores. (Previously in British Columbia, alcohol could only be sold directly to the public in government-owned stores, unlike in Europe or the USA where it is often widely available in supermarkets, gas stations, etc.). The researchers found that a 10% increase in private liquor stores was associated with a 2% increase in acute, chronic, and total alcohol attributable deaths mortality rates.

For more on alcohol policy and FASD prevention, see earlier posts:

References

Stockwell T, Auld MC, Zhao JH, Martin G. (2012). Does minimum pricing reduce alcohol consumption? The experience of a Canadian province. Addiction, 107(5):912- 920.

Stockwell T, Zhao J, Giesbrecht N, Macdonald S, Thomas G, Wettlaufer A (2012). The raising of minimum alcohol prices in Saskatchewan, Canada: Impacts on consumption and implications for public health. American Journal of Public Health, 102(12): e103-10. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.301094. Epub 2012 Oct 18. See the press release for this study here.

Zhao J, Stockwell T, Martin G, Macdonald S, Vallance K, Treno A, Ponicki W, Tu A, and Buxton J. (2013) The relationship between changes to minimum alcohol prices, outlet densities and alcohol attributable deaths in British Columbia in 2002-2009. Addiction, 108: doi:  10.1111/add.12139

Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Women Who Use Substances: What Communities are Doing to Help

Specialized, Single-Access Perinatal Community Programs in Canada

Members of our Network Action Team on FASD prevention have recently developed a 12-page overview of community programs in Canada that support pregnant and early parenting women who use alcohol and other substances.

Since the 1990s, several communities in Canada have developed specialized programs  to address barriers to accessing prenatal services that exist for many women who use substances. These barriers include:

  • fear of losing custody of children;
  • fear of forced treatment or criminal prosecution;
  • lack of treatment readiness;
  • coexisting mental illness;
  • guilt, denial and/or embarrassment regarding their substance use;
  • and lack of transportation and/or child care.

These programs have been developed with an awareness of how substance misuse is often intertwined with other issues such as homelessness, gender-based violence, involvement with the law, loss of cultural connectedness, and food insecurity.

This overview describes the development of four programs in Canada:

  1. Maxxine Wright Place Project for High Risk Pregnant and Early Parenting Women in Surrey, British Columbia
  2. H.E.R. (Healthy, Empowered, Resilient) Pregnancy Program (Streetworks Program) in Edmonton, Alberta
  3. HerWay Home in Victoria, British Columbia
  4. The Mothering Project in Winnipeg, Manitoba

The document describes how the programs started, how they evolved to meet the unique needs of each community, and describes the research evidence that shows why they work.

If you take a look at the Four-Part Model of FASD Prevention below (see Poole, 2008 here for more on this model), you’ll notice that these type of programs fall under levels 3 and 4.

The third level of FASD prevention is about the provision of recovery and support services that are specialized, culturally specific and accessible for women with alcohol problems and related mental health concerns. These services are needed not only for pregnant women, but also before pregnancy and throughout the childbearing years.

The fourth level of FASD prevention is about supporting new mothers to maintain healthy changes they have been able to make during pregnancy. Postpartum support for mothers who were not able to make significant changes in their substance use during pregnancy is also vital. This will assist them to continue to improve their health and social support, as well as the health of their children. Early interventions for children who potentially have FASD are also important at this stage.”

You can download “Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Women Who Use Substances: What Communities are Doing to Help” from either the Canada FASD Research Network website here or the the BC Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health website here.

For more on this type of community program, see previous posts: