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East County Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021 8 months ago

Hopebridge Sarasota autism center set to open in University Park

Sarasota facility will be the first of 30 in Florida for Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

After spending more than 20 years working in pediatrics as an occupational therapist, Kim Strunk was frustrated with what she called "the gap."

"The kids I had on my case load needed more intensity than I could provide," Strunk said. "There was an absolute lack of resources."

So in 2005, Strunk founded the Homefront Learning Center in Kokomo, Indiana, which soon afterward became the Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers.

Florida is about to be introduced to Hopebridge as the company will expand into the state with 30 centers that will provide more than 1,500 jobs. The first center — Hopebridge Sarasota — is scheduled to open Oct. 1 at 8027 Cooper Creek Blvd., Suite 103, University Park.

"We spend time identifying communities and we are super excited about this first clinic (in Florida)," said Strunk, who serves as her company's chief clinical officer. "This is a huge underserved community. You find that across the nation and it's what is driving our expansion."

Florida is the seventh state that will host Hopebridge clinics, joining Indiana, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio. The company will have 75 facilities in those states by the end of this year.

Strunk said her company's research showed more than 50% of Florida children with Autism Spectrum Disorder currently are on a waiting list to receive therapy. She said 25% of Florida children who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder waited more than 6 months to be diagnosed. 

In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

Hopebridge offers one-on-one personalized therapy and blends applied behavior analysis therapy with services such as occupational and speech therapy and emphasizes socialization with peers to target specific social goals. Each center is staffed by board certified behavioral analysts, registered behavior technicians, clinical psychologists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists and other industry professionals.

Strunk said the Sarasota center will be approximately 15,000 square feet. The existing space was gutted and rebuilt. She said it will host approximately 55 to 60 children at a time and approximately 70 therapists. 

The therapy sessions usually run 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily based on an 18- to 24-month program.


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