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Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers to serve Lee

Now taking appointments; set to open for services in October as part of expansion plan

By CJ HADDAD - | Sep 5, 2021


Additional resources for local youth on the autism spectrum are set to arrive in Southwest Florida this fall.

Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers, one of the largest autism therapy providers in the nation, recently announced its expansion into Florida that includes a Fort Myers location. The company will add up to 30 centers statewide and create more than 1,500 jobs to assist growing youth diagnosed on the spectrum.

“Our whole mission is really to continue to bring access for autism therapy services to various communities within our country,” said Hopebridge Vice President of Marketing and Business Development Chris Sutton. “There’s just a huge need and the demand is so great and all across the country. We want to make sure (the communities we serve) have good access to quality care for autism therapy services.”

According to Hopebridge, 50% of children in Florida with Autism Spectrum Disorder are on a waitlist to receive therapy, and nearly 25% Florida children with autism waited longer than six months to be diagnosed. Hopebridge centers are hoping to reduce that wait time with in-house clinical diagnostic assessments. Hopebridge have begun scheduling diagnostic assessments for ASD and applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy) evaluations this month, and plan to be operational for full and part-time therapy in October.

“The reason that we chose Florida is that we know it is really still an underserved market in the sense that the wait list, post-diagnosis especially — families are waiting upwards of six months, even a year to get access to ABA therapy,” Sutton said. “We are really interested in coming into the communities and help shorten that wait time for these families to get them the help they need.”

Sutton added that the ever-growing population of Florida, especially Southwest Florida, was a reason for their arrival in the area. He said predictions show that over the next five years, the demand for services will still not be met by upwards of 40 to 50%.

“Florida families deserve to receive efficient, quality access to care,” said Hopebridge Chief Clinical Officer Kim Strunk in a statement. “We’re cultivating a community of trusted experts, reputable clinicians and certified therapists to provide Florida’s families with the tools to help their children continue onto success in school and long-term independence.”

Hopebridge’s individualized center-based care offers: Diagnostic and ABA evaluations (now scheduling); state-of-the-art facilities designed specifically to enhance pediatric therapy for a spectrum of functioning levels; socialization with peers to target specific social and pragmatic goals; interdisciplinary collaboration between ABA, occupational and speech therapists; a full-service insurance support team to help families navigate coverage options; and parent training and education to maximize the effects of therapy outside center walls.

“There are now over one million children with autism in the United States,” said Hopebridge CEO Dennis May in a statement. “It’s predicted that even in the next five years, that number will continue to grow as the prevalence of diagnostic services become more accessible. We are working tirelessly to increase this access to care, so more families can get the crucial early intervention they need for their child to live their best life.”

Hopebridge focuses on an early diagnosis and intervention model, providing care for those as young as 18 months to 9 years old. Children can continue with Hopebridge as they age, but must have started the program at age 9 or younger. Each Hopebridge center can work with around 50 children. Other regional locations set to open in the fall include centers in Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Brandon (December).

Sutton said their “360 Care” model is what sets them apart when it comes to services they offer children on the spectrum and their families.

“Our 360 Care model really looks at the child from all angles,” he said. “A huge portion of children with autism need (a secondary) type of therapy — whether that’s speech or occupational therapy. A lot of providers don’t have all of those within the same facility. We at Hopebridge believe having all of (those services) under the same umbrella really allows the family a huge convenience that they don’t have to travel to a number of different locations.

“Our specialists all collaborate together to make sure the child is receiving their best plan of care.”

Hopebridge was founded in 2005 to serve the growing need for autism treatment services and to improve the lives of affected children and families. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Hopebridge operates in seven states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.

Hopebridge Fort Myers is at 4150 Ford St., Unit 4. For more information, visit www.hopebridge.com.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj