New Hopebridge CEO Sets Sights on Expanding ‘360 Care Services,’ Adding New Centers

Hopebridge’s new CEO David McIntosh sees his work as a calling.

In his three years with autism provider Hopebridge, McIntosh has learned that his work and the work of his compatriots bring potentially life-changing results for families and children.

“That’s a responsibility I take very seriously,” McIntosh said in an email to Behavioral Health Business.


McIntosh took over the proverbial corner office at Indianapolis-based Hopebridge, one of the largest autism therapy providers in the U.S., on May 1, succeeding Dennis May.

Today, Hopebridge operates 128 locations in 12 states, according to its website. However, the company started as a single office in Kokomo, Indiana. Company founder Kim Strunk launched the company in 2005, when applied behavior analysis (ABA), a leading therapy for autism, was not covered by insurance.

This history and Strunk’s industry-leading role attracted McIntosh to the company.


“So Kim was one of the original pioneers in forging a path for the ABA therapy that we know today,” McIntosh said. “I was inspired by her resilience and her commitment to serving families in need.”

A year ago, Hopebridge made Strunk head of clinical strategy as part of a broader executive team change to better position the company to focus on outcome-based care.

Before coming to Hopebridge in 2020, McIntosh was the vice president of operations at PT Solutions Physical Therapy. He was promoted from his initial role as vice president of operations to president and COO in 2021. McIntosh was announced as the new CEO in April 2023.

Hopebridge Inc.
David McIntosh, left, succeeds Dennis May, right, as CEO of Hopebridge.

“As I step into the CEO role, I’m deeply committed to fostering a culture of collaboration, excellence and compassion,” McIntosh said. “I believe that every individual at Hopebridge contributes to our collective effort to pursue excellence in autism care and create lasting change in historically underserved communities.”

The following Q&A has been edited for clarity, length and style.

BHB: What attracted you to Hopebridge in the first place?

McIntosh: I was inspired by [Hopebridge founder Kim Strunk’s] resilience and her commitment to serving families in need.

Eighteen years, 120 locations and thousands of children later, Hopebridge is still driven by those founding principles and has an extended team of experienced clinicians leading our direction.

A lot has changed since 2005, but Hopebridge’s mission has always stayed the same. Not a lot of companies can say that. I knew I wanted to be part of that story.

In your handful of years at Hopebridge, what is the most important thing you’ve learned about the autism therapy and services industry?

Our most valuable asset is our people; our therapists and dedicated support staff are the lifeblood of our organization. They are the ones who provide the compassionate care that has helped countless families achieve meaningful progress toward their goals.

Without them, we would not be able to fulfill our mission of improving the lives of those we serve.

What is the No. 1 challenge to Hopebridge’s success? How will you address this once you step into the CEO role?

Hopebridge has always made it our mission to provide care to underserved communities, including Medicaid. As CEO, my priority is to help further that mission by increasing access to quality care for all children. That means working hand in hand with our community and university partners to build a strong network of clinicians to ensure these kids receive the care they need and deserve.

The latest CDC data has revealed that 1 in 36 eight-year-old children have autism.

The report also shared that though autism occurs among all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, historically, Asian-American and Pacific Islander, African American and Hispanic children, along with those from rural or disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, have been diagnosed later in life or were often missed completely. This year’s report is the first time we are seeing the prevalence of autism amongst Asian-American and Pacific Islander, Hispanic and African American children increase. 

While we’re excited to see that access to diagnosis is finally coming to more diverse communities, we believe that just providing a diagnosis is not enough to solve the problems facing these individuals and their families. Now, it’s critical to provide the necessary therapies that these children require to help them achieve their full potential.

Has Hopebridge’s scale helped it in its negotiations with payers?

As one of the largest providers in the nation, we know we have a social responsibility to drive positive change in the autism space. This starts conversations with payers about fair and equitable reimbursement so we can continue to invest in our people, patients, science and communities.

Inflation is putting pressure on many organizations, making this a crucial time for payers to help sustain therapy models that will benefit generations of children. As autism prevalence rises, payers have an even greater responsibility to support quality providers. This will enable us to offer healthy wages that encourage more individuals to pursue careers in behavioral health.

Given the challenges that all providers in the autism space face, do you anticipate Hopebridge will add centers in 2023? What about 2024?

We see a great opportunity in 2023 and 2024 to advance the expansion of our 360 Care services, such as occupational therapy and speech therapy, in our current centers.

As a former physical therapist, an attribute that originally attracted me to Hopebridge was our 360 Care model that offers multiple therapies under one roof. Clinically, it makes sense to bring interdisciplinary therapies together to treat the many facets of a child’s plan of care. Operationally, we know that this alleviates a huge burden on families who often are forced to drive from location to location daily to get to their appointments. We’re really excited to continue to pour into these therapists and interdisciplinary services for our families.

We will also continue to add new centers. A guiding principle for us is to go where we are needed. As long as new communities need our services, our mission will take us to them.

What do you think Hopebridge’s most important accomplishment will be in 2023?

We’re making major investments in our clinical outcomes data, clinical quality and research pilots.

We’re furthering our commitment to clinical quality with the newly formed Hopebridge Clinical Advisory Board (CAB). This board is [composed] of some of the foremost scholars in the pediatric and autism space. They will serve as a sounding board for existing Hopebridge clinical processes and procedures, be a beacon for excellence as the science of ABA care advances and provide expert-level oversight and guidance to Hopebridge’s clinical teams.

The 2023 clinical priorities for the CAB include assessment and treatment of challenging behaviors, enhanced interdisciplinary collaboration and teaming and expansion of the continuum of care for children.

Later this year, we’ll also be sharing initial insights from our robust assessment platform. This will be first-of-this-scale data collected from millions of hours of diagnostic, ABA, speech and occupational therapy sessions that will drive value-based care and provide evidence-based KPIs to inform our clinical protocols and clinical quality. We’ll continue to tirelessly update and pour into ways this data can help us continually measure and improve our services because we know that improvement is an unending pursuit.

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