Major Autism Services Provider to Close in Oregon

Texas-based CARD is owned by a private equity firm.

GROWTH: Children's drawings ring a tree in the Buckman neighborhood. (Sam Gehrke)

The Center for Autism and Related Disorders informed state officials last week it will close its 10 Oregon clinics in August, resulting in the layoff of 156 staff members.

Texas-based CARD is the largest provider of an autism treatment called applied behavior analysis. Tobi Rates, executive director of the Autism Society of Oregon, says that although the therapy is controversial in some circles, it qualifies for broad insurance coverage from both private and public payers.

“It’s a big deal,” Rates says of the closures.

The widespread and growing prevalence of autism spectrum disorder—1 in 44 8-year-olds have it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—has attracted investors to the field. The Blackstone Group, a leading private equity firm, purchased CARD in 2018 for a reported $600 million.

Rates says parents of children experiencing autism are upset about the closures and speculating among themselves that the move may be related to reimbursement rates. CARD and the Oregon Health Authority did not respond to requests for comment.

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