Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers is already making good on its growth goals for 2021, which include hiring thousands of new employees and opening several new locations by the year’s end.
Last month, it announced the addition of six new centers in Arizona, on top of two locations it’s opening soon in Colorado and Indiana. It’s all part of an aggressive, mission-driven expansion plan, which will leave the autism provider nearly 40% bigger than it was last September.
Headquartered in Indianapolis, Hopebridge is already one of the nation’s largest autism treatment organizations. Backed by the private equity firm Arsenal Capital Partners, the provider offers center-based applied behavior analysis (ABA), diagnostics, occupational therapy and speech therapy to children on the autism spectrum.
Chris Sutton, Hopebridge’s vice president of business development, said Hopebridge’s ongoing expansion is necessary to address the huge demand for autism treatment services nationwide.
BHB recently connected with him to discuss the company’s growth strategy and trajectory, as well as the home-grown board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) initiative helping to make it possible. Plus, he highlighted the need for improved industry-wide autism treatment outcomes measures, Hopebridge’s one-stop-shop model and more.
You can find the conversation below, edited for length and clarity.
BHB: Congrats on the recent expansion in Arizona. Is this part of the growth the company hinted at a few months back, when it announced its plans to add more than 2,700 employees and 20 new locations in 2021? And if so, why Arizona?
Sutton: Thank you, we’re really thrilled. So far, we’ve been able to help hundreds of children with autism and their families in Arizona since we first established roots in the state in 2019 with our first six locations. We got to know the community, [and] we developed relationships with the outreach organizations, and through this process we discovered that even after all our efforts, the need for autism services in Arizona is still unmet.
It was a no-brainer for us to expand for these families that we’ve grown to care for, and to provide more access to care in the state that welcomed us with open arms. This expansion is more than an extension of our business, it’s a follow through on our mission and our promise to provide access to care to as many children as possible.
The six new locations in Arizona will provide hundreds of families with faster access to autism diagnostics and our 360 Care services, all closer to home. We’re doing our best to spread our services across the state so families can integrate our services into their life without interruption. That’s also why we provide all interdisciplinary services like speech and feeding therapy, occupational therapy and ABA therapy in one place, so parents spend less time traveling to appointments and more time doing the things they love with their family. The family’s needs are placed at the center of everything we do.
Can you share when and where the additional locations will be opened?
Tempe is our newest center to open. Flagstaff, Mesa, North Tucson, Phoenix Central and Surprise are opening in the coming months in Arizona. These centers are already accepting diagnostic assessment appointments.
We also have additional locations in Greeley, Colorado, and Elkhart, Indiana, that we have announced, which will be opening soon. We have a few more planned in 2021 but still are working out those details. All of our locations are built or remodeled specifically to enhance pediatric therapy for a spectrum of functioning levels.
We’re really excited to see progress on the construction of these facilities and eagerly await the day when they are filled with children and staff.
What’s fueling Hopebridge’s expansion plans? It’s been active ever since it first scored PE backing in 2011, but especially in recent years.
Every moment counts. Early intervention is critical, and we’re dedicated to equipping families with the tools, expertise and support they need as soon as possible. We have been fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to provide much needed access for families.
How many locations does Hopebridge have total now? How many do you expect to have open at the end of the year?
We currently operate 64 centers in six states, with plans to have 70 or more centers by the end of the year.
Will we see any acquisitions from you guys?
Our mission is to continue to bring access for families impacted by autism across the country. This need is great and these families deserve quality care to be convenient for them. We will continue to look at the best opportunities to bring the highest quality of care to these families.
Beyond expansion, what other goals do you have for Hopebridge in the year ahead?
There are a lot of exciting activities taking place at Hopebridge.
As an industry leader, it is important to continue to measure and improve on our patient outcomes. We continue to do this by reflecting on ways to improve our service offerings through our 360 Care model.
We also have a lot of learning and advancement initiatives for staff as well. This will allow continued enhancement of training and development of the team that builds even stronger engagement and creates the culture that makes Hopebridge one of the best places to work.
What sets the company apart from others in the space?
It’s no secret that the demand for ABA services outweighs the clinicians that are able to provide it. We can keep expanding, but without clinicians, there’s no life-changing therapy and there’s no culture to our mission. With ABA being such a new industry, we’ve been strategically building internal development programs that help us home grow our own BCBAs and ABA therapists with on the job training, fellowship programs and structured supervision hours.
We’re really at the forefront of a movement with our Behavior Analyst Fellowship (BAF) Program, which helps budding behavior analysts pursue a career as a BCBA. We have a team of professionals dedicated to leading the program and they’ve created a structure that provides opportunities for Hopebridge employees to gain free restricted and unrestricted hours. BAF students also receive multi-level, multidimensional support from peers, multiple BCBAs and company leadership.
It’s another way we’re expanding access for families, and it’s extremely fulfilling that we get to ignite careers for caring professionals as well.
Anything else you’d like to add?
These new centers in Arizona, Colorado and Indiana will create more than 400 new jobs throughout the states they will be a part of in order to ensure our kids receive one-on-one, personalized therapy. We’re looking for people with a passion for helping children on the spectrum, whether they’re BCBAs, registered behavior technicians, psychologists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists or just interested in the field of ABA.