Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Stephanie Waddell

A NEW OPTION – Jessica Fulmer (left) shows how a new dispenser for pregnancy test kits will work. Standing behind the dispenser is Wenda Bradley, executive director of FASSY, which is leading the project.

Women urged to ‘think before they drink’

Nine years ago, at the age of 19, Jessica Fulmer was not only too nervous to go to a drug store and buy a pregnancy test, but she also didn’t have the $15 to $20 needed to purchase the test.

By Stephanie Waddell on March 23, 2015

Nine years ago, at the age of 19, Jessica Fulmer was not only too nervous to go to a drug store and buy a pregnancy test, but she also didn’t have the $15 to $20 needed to purchase the test.

Had she been able to quietly slip into a bathroom with a couple of loonies to buy one out of a dispenser, she would have probably known much sooner that she was pregnant.

Fulmer knows what it’s like to live with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) herself.

She was eventually able to talk to her caseworker at the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of Yukon (FASSY), who made the purchase for her, but getting to that point wasn’t easy.

Fulmer is now the mother of a healthy girl.

She recalled her experience this morning during the launch of a new program to make the $2 pregnancy test kits available through dispensers being installed in women’s washrooms in Whitehorse at Yukon College and the Dirty Northern Pub.

They will also be installed in Dawson at the Downtown Hotel (in the lobby washroom) and the Westminster Lounge.

Posters are also set to be displayed in the Jarvis Street Saloon and the Gra8teful Spud in Whitehorse along with another location in Dawson.

The Whitehorse initiative is being led by FASSY, with the project in Dawson being led by Healthy Families Healthy Babies.

As Wenda Bradley, FASSY’s executive director, explained, the initiative aims to have women “think before they drink” and consider whether they might be pregnant before consuming alcohol.

She also wants to see it challenge stereotypes she said can get in the way of effective education on FASD.

“This is not just a problem for women struggling with alcohol consumption or addiction,” Bradley said.

“It is a problem for all of us. We feel that this universal prevention strategy will increase awareness among the general public with no known risk factors, of the prospective health risk of prenatal alcohol exposure.

“The messaging on the pregnancy kit dispensers, we feel, will help do this and as well provide a useful, accessible and affordable tool for women if they choose to use it.”

While there are a number of dispensers elsewhere in the country, Bradley said this is the first one officials know of in Canada’s North.

The Yukon initiative will also be part of a study through the University of Alaska Anchorage looking at whether the dispensers and information or just providing information is effective in reaching women.

“We’re very glad to be connected with this study,” Bradley said.

The results will help determine if it’s having an impact and perhaps eventually lead to further funding for dispensers to be added in other locations down the road.

A survey is being done – with residents able to simply scan a barcode on the posters with a smartphone – as part of that assessment.

Those who participate in the survey will get a $15 iTunes card for their participation and be contacted again in six months to complete the second part of the survey when they can again receive another iTunes card for doing that survey.

FASSY officials first became aware of the kit dispensers during an international FASD prevention conference held in Calgary in 2013.

Healthy Brains For Children developed the dispenser program with a goal of making tests available worldwide in locations where women can test before drinking rather than waiting longer into a pregnancy.

The tests kits are being provided through Healthy Brains For Children with the $2 price-tag reflecting the cost of the pregnancy test and shipping rates.

Speaking to reporters after the announcement, Bradley said she’s been pleased with the response from the community. All who were asked have been more than willing to participate.

She also pointed out that while the Jarvis Street Saloon had also offered to put in a dispenser, the group opted for the Dirty Northern and Yukon College, while putting the poster up at the Jarvis Street Saloon.

With funding for two dispensers, the group wanted to get one into a bar with the Dirty Northern indicating it has a younger clientele that may prefer that type of test option over a more public purchase at a drugstore.

Also wanting to reach teenagers who are too young to get into bars, the group opted for the college.

Bradley pointed out teenagers can go to the college and discreetly get the test kit from the bathroom near the pit inside the main entrance.

As Fulmer recalled: “The pregnancy test can be expensive, plus there’s a stigma to buying one as a teenager.”

Also partnering on the program is Yukon Brewing, which provided a donation for the purchase of the $1,000 dispensers.

As Yukon Brewing co-owner Bob Baxter said this morning, while the company wants people to buy their product, “we’re all about responsible consumption.”

And that means supporting initiatives like this.

“We’re really happy to be part of this,” Baxter said.

Sue Stark, chair of the college’s school of health, education and human services, also noted the college is pleased to be part of a project that will help women think before they drink.

Comments (9)

Up 29 Down 13

Fawn on Mar 24, 2015 at 9:09 pm

This is a great idea! Giving more women a convenient means to make healthier choices can only be positive.
I simply don't understand the negativity. Amazing how much anger there is around women's reproductive choices.

Who says every woman in a bar is "getting hammered"? Just because someone is in a bar doesn't mean she is drunk. What if she had one drink and then saw the poster and suddenly realized they should think twice? One drink is better than four. Maybe she hasn't had any yet, but agreed to come to the bar knowing she can get that pregnancy test she's been meaning to take.

Enough negativity. We should be doing all we can to support healthier women and healthier families. This may be one small step, but it's positive.

Up 20 Down 6

Jh on Mar 24, 2015 at 8:38 pm

Awesome focus! I hope this helps. FASD is 100% preventable! It has changed and altered many lives in the Yukon and elsewhere! I know many FASD individuals and I often wonder what they could have become if their mothers didn't drink! If this initiative saves one child from FASD then it succeeded!
Excellent work FASSY!

Up 11 Down 19

June Jackson on Mar 24, 2015 at 5:44 pm

"Encourage women not to drink while pregnant" huh? Ya' don't think they already know that? A 3rd grader knows that. Someone must be going to make money out of this non-idea. There is also the group that doesn't give a damn, that are really only interested in the money from Child Tax Credit and Universal Child. I've heard people say NO ONE has a baby for a few dollars... I'm here to tell you.. yes they do. The women that care aren't going to drink anyway and the women that don't will keep right on drinking and having kids. FAE/FAS babies, children, adults.. heart breaking..it isn't their fault.. my experience is.. they all have money to drink and smoke.. they choose not to use their dollars for anything but booze.

Up 38 Down 25

nope on Mar 24, 2015 at 4:50 pm

If you need to check if you are pregnant while getting hammered at the bar then you've already failed at life. Sad.

Up 22 Down 8

The Observer on Mar 24, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Love this idea, however I feel the College isn't the greatest location to start this project simply because its location poses a challenge for those not of college age. Many of these kids have a hard time getting around as the College is somewhat out of the way. I would think it may make a teen feel out of place and if needed, they'd have a harder time explaining why they were there.

I do feel the College is a good place but perhaps somewhere like the Canada Games Centre or fast food places would be good options to target those under the age of 18.

Great project!!! Good work.

Up 10 Down 15

Josey Wales on Mar 24, 2015 at 11:55 am

When one looks at "public safety" in regards to what booze can AND does to "our" communities all over Canada...not just here.
Why do we not "replicate" the attitudes of the faaar left and how they feel "public safety" should be addressed?

Huh Josey...you may say?

To that, I do...given the by FAR larger damage created by booze to say...firearms?
Why not have a national registry of some type where that potential souse will HAVE TO "establish a non criminal past" "be subject to warrant less" visits to confirm compliance with a very long list of requirements lobbied for, anytime "a" Federal booze card acquisition card holder goes before the courts resulting in a conviction? Yup, 10 year ban on booze acquisition but of course.

See the point I'm trying to make here folks? Drinking is not a right, it is a privilege.
Drinking harms more fetuses and born humans than ANY manipulated firearms stats can ever do.
FAS is used daily in our courts for a wide variety of enabling excuses from assault to murder and rape..even child rape.
Clearly all FAS victims (call it by an honest name) are NOT I repeat NOT predating criminals hellbent on carnage but merely trying to "cope" with someones very BIG error and in many cases (not all..not this one..) clear lack of concern for themselves or the fetus they host.

...very much like not all firearms owners are Mark Lepine, funny how WE (firearms owners) are treated like we in fact are a Canadian-Algerian hybrid who like daddy...hates women AND the west.

Hope I never ruined the feel good nature of this "article", the points whilst uncomfortable to some..need to be made, and I chose to do so.
Freely expressing myself, which is actually "a" right...getting hammered and creating a wake of carnage... is not.
...Imagine eh?

Up 20 Down 39

Anna Belle on Mar 23, 2015 at 6:11 pm

If a person is too ashamed to walk into a grocery store and purchase a pregnancy test or can not afford one to begin with, maybe you should think twice about having unprotected sex in the first place or any at all...
Installing pregnancy test dispensers in bars is not going to reduce the increasing rate of FASD in Whitehorse. Although I don't believe this idea is terrible, I don't entirely find it positive either -- and how reliable are 2$ pregnancy tests going to be?

Up 31 Down 8

Groucho d'North on Mar 23, 2015 at 5:54 pm

New ideas for an old problem - let's hope its successful. If you don't try new things - you'll never learn anything.

Up 74 Down 16

Michael McCann on Mar 23, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Congratulations to FASSY for putting together a unique partnership and showing what can be done with not a lot of money and without government support when you are creative

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.