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Friday, March 4, 2022

Private Equity Investment in Autism Services

 The Politics of Autism includes an extensive discussion of autism service providers.

The Private Equity Stakeholder Project has a report titled "The Kids Are Not Alright: How Private Equity Profits Off of Behavioral Health Services for Vulnerable and At-Risk Youth." 

 In the last several years private equity investment in autism services, particularly in providers of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, has substantially increased. While a handful of private equity investments in autism occurred earlier, 2017 and onwards have seen a flurry of private equity acquisitions.134 For example, in 2018 The Blackstone Group acquired the Center for Autism andRelated Disorders, with close to 2,000 employees, for a reported $700 million. It was reportedly the largest single autism provider deal in history.135 The year before, FFL Partners bought Autism Learning Partners (3,600 employees) for $270 million.136 In 2019 Gryphon Investors acquired LEARN Behavioral, (3,400 employees),137 and in July 2021 Cerberus Capital Management acquired Lighthouse Autism Center from Abry Partners for over $400 million.138

Because private equity investment in autism services is relatively new, little is known about what it means for quality of care. However, the profit-seeking tactics seen in private equity’s ownership of other behavioral health services, particularly in intellectual and developmental disability services, raises concern for how the business model will impact autism services.