A startup that pays parents to become registered behavior technicians (RBTs) to treat their kids with autism has raised $55 million.
San Francisco-based Forta helps parents become RBTs with the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) and pays them from payer reimbursements for delivery services to their child. The company also provides an AI-backed tech stack to support parents and other clinicians who oversee therapy.
Venture capital firms Insight Partners led the round. Exor Ventures and Alumni Ventures participated in the round, along with unspecified founders from companies including Warby Parker, Allbirds and 23&Me, according to a news release.
The funds will go toward expanding Forta’s unique model of care delivery as well as investment in AI to “find breakthrough pathways that improve care outcomes and accessibility,” the release states.
Behavioral Health Business has reached out to Forta for additional comment. So far, BHB has not heard back.
The company’s initial focus is to increase access to applied behavior analysis (ABA) for those diagnosed with autism. It’s also considering expanding services to other conditions.
“Our current health care system is not able to provide dependable and quality care to families when they need it,” Ritankar Das, co-founder and CEO of Forta, said in a statement. “When we identify areas of care shortages, we find ways to empower local and family caregivers with AI-based tools and education to deliver earlier and more effective interventions.”
The company was founded in 2021 and has engaged in a handful of other funding rounds, according to crunchbase.com. A review of SEC documents shows Forta has raised at least $1.2 million from a syndicate of investors.
“We started by applying our platform to autism therapy because many families face years of waiting for care,” Das said. “Now, we are exploring how to expand the empowered home caregiver model to memory care and other chronic conditions.”
The company was originally founded as Montera Inc. It became Forta after it acquired Houston-based Collaborative Autism Resources and Education (CARE), an in-home ABA provider, in March 2022 to create an AI-powered, in-home ABA provider.
“Forta delivers personalized, in-home ABA therapy so your child can thrive,” the company’s website once read.
In July 2022, the company pivoted, shuttering its direct ABA services and laying off a major portion of its staff. At the time, sources at the company said the company was contemplating a shift to an Uber-like platform for autism therapy services with virtual parent-training services.
Around August 2022, the company rolled out its model of training parents to provide ABA to their children.
Its approach to training parents somewhat harkens back to the roots of ABA. Today, parent training programs are an adjunct to the therapy RBTs and BCBAs deliver in the patient’s home or clinic. However, the massive shortage of available ABA services has led some to look to greater parent involvement in service delivery.
Monikered parent-led ABA, some organizations look at parents delivering behavior interventions in daily living as a stand-in for conventional therapy delivery models.
Yet few organizations pay parents for their time or help them become RBTs for their children over licensure and billing concerns.
The BACB told its members that RBTs treating their own children violated the organization’s code of ethics.
“In summary, to comply with the BACB’s ethics codes, a parent cannot be the RBT on record for their child,” the licensing body wrote in its July 2023 newsletter. “However, the BACB does not wish to discourage parents from becoming RBTs. Many parents of children receiving ABA services become certified by the BACB.”
On top of violating the BACB conflict of interest standard, the newsletter cites ethical providers concerning the violation of payer rules and questions about effective clinical oversight.
Ethical concerns aside, there is a significant need and opportunity for companies to address the ABA services shortage, one that some investors have taken note of.
“Families seeking autism treatment today face burdensome costs, offensive waiting lists, and undue hardships with few choices and little agency,” Scott Barclay, managing director at Insight Partners, said in a statement. “At Insight, our computational care thesis aspires to serve founders creating scalable solutions — like Forta’s — born out of deeply rooted empathy. We are proud to back Forta’s researchers as they continue this important work.”