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Private equity investors are backing all of the major chains offering the country’s most popular form of autism therapy, known as applied behavior analysis, or ABA. Now, however, there are signs that those investors may be cooling on the industry.

As part of its investigation into the ways that private equity’s profit fixation is short-changing kids with autism who rely on ABA therapy, STAT compiled a list of some of the biggest autism therapy chains in the country — and their backers. The reporting reveals that north of 60 private equity firms, including some of the biggest names like Blackstone and KKR, have collectively poured billions into the sector over the past decade, with investments reaching a fever pitch in the latter half of the 2010s. That investment has transformed ABA from a collection of small, mom-and-pop clinics to a multibillion-dollar industry in which care is increasingly provided by national chains.


But private-equity-owned ABA chains also told STAT they’ve struggled in recent months with staff shortages and inflation. There have been fewer deals so far this year than in the past, one M&A firm said. Mass layoffs and abrupt center closures suggest profits aren’t where investors want them, at least at some companies. The Center for Autism and Related Disorders, for example, closed its centers in Oregon this month after the company said it wasn’t able to secure higher rates from health insurers to offset staff shortages and other costs.

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