Why Bayada Home Health Care Considers Large Scale Autism Treatment, Expanding Services

The next frontier for home health providers looking to expand their business mix: behavioral health care.

Earlier this month, Bayada Home Health Care opened the Bayada Pennsauken Center for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The Pennsauken, New Jersey-based center will offer both home and center-based behavioral support and treatment for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other intellectual disabilities.

The launch of the Bayada Pennsauken Center for ABA Services is part of a larger expansion of that line of services for the nonprofit home health giant.

“Bayada has been providing ABA services in Hawaii for over 10 years and [this has] really built a strong foundation for us,” Jessica Shea-Brown, regional director of behavioral health services at Bayada, told Home Health Care News. “We always had the vision to be able to serve additional individuals who were in need and who could benefit from the service.”

Moorestown, New Jersey-based Bayada offers a range of home care services through 360 offices in 23 states as well as six other countries. The company employs more than 28,000 nurses, home health aides, therapists, social workers and other care professionals.

Bayada entered the field of autism and ABA services after acquiring Trumpet Behavioral Health’s Hawaii operations in 2014. Since then, Bayada has provided ABA services to more than 600 families in Hawaii.

Brown joined Bayada in April to oversee the company’s expansion of ABA services in the US – with a focus on the East Coast. She has 20 years of experience in the field of behavioral health.

A primary focal point for the Bayada Pennsauken Center for ABA Services will be providing “ABA and evidence-based methodologies aimed at enhancing functional skills,” according to a press release.

For Bayada, the business case for expanding this service is clear. Autism affects approximately 1 in 44 children in the U.S., according to the CDC. Its prevalence also appears to be increasing, other statistics suggest.

“There is a very high need for services,” Brown said. “If we can be a provider that helps families, children and adults access the services they need and remove some of the barriers to access, we certainly want to do that.”

In general, ABA includes therapy for areas such as communication skills, language, and focus. It is considered by many to be the gold standard for autism treatment.

Some of the largest providers that specialize in these types of services include 630 Behavioral Health and The Center for Autism & Related Disorders (CARD). Although both companies have grown due to huge demand for services, each had to lay off workers this summer, according to Behavioral Health Business.

The job cuts were linked to reimbursement challenges, something Bayada will also have to navigate. Bayada’s autism business will work in Medicaid and commercial insurance, with private pay.

“We receive recommendations from schools. We get referrals when families self-refer. The New Jersey Child Care System will support families with referrals and we will use their commercial insurance,” explained Brown. “We are a Medicaid provider, which we are very excited about. We don’t see that much private pay, but it’s an option.

Like its other service lines, Bayada will have to deal with another challenge: labor shortages.

Brown noted that the nonprofit created the “RBT Academy” to help on the front lines. RBT stands for ‘Registered Behavioral Technician’.

“What we do is we build community partnerships. We work with local universities. We provide internship opportunities,” she said. “And then we also provide a training academy – a paid training academy. We are trying to do some outreach and identify individuals in the community who may have an interest in working with people with autism, or [interest] in the field of behavioral health.”

Bayada’s new center will eventually have between 80 and 100 employees. At any one time, the center can work with 50 to 60 people at a time, in addition to the people its teams work with in the wider community.

Having these services available in the home was important to Bayada, according to Brown.

“When it comes to clinical services, we meet families where they are,” she said. “We do a comprehensive assessment and really develop individualized treatment plans with them. We make sure to identify goals that are meaningful to the family. Because we help with skill acquisition and developmental milestones, it can be done in the center, it can be done in the home, it can be done in both. There is no scripted way in which services are delivered.”

Given the amount of services Bayada provides, the company also sees the center as an opportunity for synergy across the organization.

“We’ve had very in-depth conversations with a number of our other practices because they see a need for ABA services for the clients they get, people who come in with co-occurring needs,” Brown said. “I think there’s a lot of room for us to collaborate.”

Looking ahead, Bayada has plans to open more centers in the future. Still, the company wants to be strategic about how it approaches the expansion.

“We’re going to be very intentional and very thoughtful about what growth looks like and making sure we’re going to be in an area where we can provide the highest quality of service, build community partnerships and really become a member of that community.” Brown said.

Robert Holley contributed to this report.

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