Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers — one of the nation’s largest autism treatment providers — is breaking into yet another state. This time, the company is planting its flag in Florida, where it will be adding up to 30 new applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy centers over the next year and a half.
“We’ll open four locations this fall … [in] Sarasota, St. Pete, Fort Myers and Brandon,” CEO Dennis May told Behavioral Health Business. “The remainder of the locations will open over the next 12 to 18 months from today, so 2022 is going to be a very busy year for Hopebridge and Florida.”
Backed by the private equity firm Arsenal Capital Partners, Hopebridge offers center-based ABA, diagnostics, occupational therapy and speech therapy to children on the autism spectrum. Currently, it has about 70 centers in six states, where it deploys a density-based “cluster strategy.”
“Frequently we’ll have six or seven — maybe even 10 or 12 — centers in a particular city because we really focus on drive times,” May said. “Most of our children come to us five days a week, so transportation is really important to them.”
He added that more than half of the families Hopebridge serves are covered by Medicaid, meaning they are lower income and face even larger transportation challenges than the typical commercially insured family.
Hopebridge’s expansion into Florida comes after the provider announced plans to open a total of 20 new locations in 2021 — a goal it’s on track to hit by the end of the year. This year alone, it has already opened new locations in Arizona, Colorado and Indiana — and soon, it will do the same in Florida.
“The number one driver for us is just access,” May said. “There’s just such a shortage of services, and as we look out into the future, this problem doesn’t just get better. It’s going to take effort from providers like Hopebridge, to really lean into expansion, … not only in new facilities, but also by really investing in talent development, education and developing BCBAs and clinicians to help these children.”
In adding 30 new locations in Florida, Hopebrige will also add about 1,500 new clinical jobs in the state.
But in the behavioral health world, filling those positions is easier said than done. Nationwide, there’s a shortage of behavioral health clinicians, with an estimated 6,398 mental health professionals needed to fix the problem.
While there’s no quick fix for the industry-wide shortage, Hopebridge has long been working on a solution of its own: a “grow-your-own-staffing model” called the Behavioral Analyst Fellowship Program.
On one hand, it’s a mentorship program that allows BCBA students to complete the supervision hours required for their master’s degrees, while also creating a number of career paths and opportunities for those students post-graduation.
In return, Hopebridge has an ongoing pipeline of talent and boasts a high retention rate, according to May. However, he declined to put an exact number on that retention rate.
“Our [registered behavior technicians] (RBTs) are … the backbone of our organization, but we also have to create career paths for them for where they can be in three years or five years, May said. “And sometimes the BCBA is where they want to be, but we’re also creating a lot of management, management development and training development roles for them.”
Another area of focus for Hopebridge in the months and years ahead relates to clinical outcomes. The company is currently making internal investments to more effectively measure clinical outcomes, as well as working with outside organizations to help with data capture.
“It’s good for the payers, it’s good for the providers, and ultimately, it’s going to be good for the children because we’re going to deliver better outcomes,” May said.
He went on to add that Hopebridge plans to expand into more new states in 2022 and beyond.