By Anthony Bellano, Patch Staff
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Oct 20, 2020 11:30 am ET
The centers are opening to help meet a growing need, as autism rates continue to rise. One in 32 New Jersey children are diagnosed with autism. Nationally, one in 54 children are diagnosed with autism.
At the same time, the lockdown that has happened as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has caused severe disruptions in services and therapies.
According to NeurAbilities, 63 percent of families of children with autism have reported disruptions. Out of that group, 95 percent reported that the disruptions have negatively affected their child’s behavior, while 82 percent reported that the disruptions have harmed their child’s mental and emotional health, according to a recent study.
“Many families are struggling with behavioral issues as a result of these disruptions. Children with autism can fall behind in their learning and even regress,” NeurAbilities Healthcare Chief Executive Officer Kathleen Stengel said. “As a result, families need our services now more than ever.”
Voorhees-based NeurAbilities recently opened two Pennsylvania treatment centers, in King of Prussia and Bala Cynwyd. Each site also offers in-home services within a 30-mile radius.
The new treatment centers will complement NeurAbilities’ three diagnostic centers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which focus on medical and neuropsychological evaluations and treatment planning. The diagnostic hubs — in Voorhees and Wall Township and in a separate King of Prussia facility — are also increasing their patient capacity.
“Many New Jersey children are on wait lists for both diagnostic evaluations and treatment,” Stengel said. “Our expansion will help fill this gap, so more children and families can receive the services and support they deserve.”
NeurAbilities offers a full range of autism services — including diagnostic evaluations, counseling, and ABA (applied behavior analysis) treatment — from one coordinated source.
“With our new facilities, we can ease the enormous burden on families by providing front-to-back services,” NeurAbilities Founder and Chief Medical Officer Mark Mintz said.
Mintz said he opened NeurAbilities, formerly known as CNNH NeuroHealth, in 2005 to address gaps in care for people with special needs.
The Cherry Hill center will be located at 1800 Chapel Avenue, and it will sport a boardwalk design. It is designed for children with autism, primarily from the ages of 14 months to 15 years, but also older if appropriate. It will include:
Special lighting and window treatments that address sensory sensitivities.
An indoor playground to help children learn a wide range of skills, including communication and socialization.
Individual and group treatment rooms.
Enhanced COVID-19 safety protocols, including daily staff screenings, masks required for all staff and parents, gloves for all staff, and sanitization of equipment between patients.
“We teach children functional skills, and then help them apply their skills at home. We also teach parents and other caregivers how to work with their child,” Stengel said. “This consistency enhances children’s learning and development.”
The center’s team of physicians are also trained to handle any additional diagnoses a child on the autism spectrum may have, Stengel said. These may be developmental, behavioral, neurologic, and/or genetic.
“When services are fragmented, that can lead to inaccurate diagnoses, less effective care, more hospitalizations, and over-medication,” Mintz said.
NeurAbilities provides medically necessary ABA, as well as family training, at its treatment centers and in families’ homes across South and Central New Jersey, and in six Pennsylvania counties: Montgomery, Philadelphia, Bucks, Delaware, Lehigh, and Northampton.
The Cherry Hill center will be the seventh NeurAbilities site to open, with two more planned in New Jersey and Pennsylvania next year.
The organization is hiring about 50 clinical and administrative staff members in New Jersey this year, with a total of 125 new hires planned through 2020. It is hiring for a variety of positions, including Board-Certified Behavior Analysts and registered behavior technicians.
In New Jersey, the organization is in-network with major medical and behavioral-health insurance providers. In Pennsylvania, NeurAbilities is a licensed, intensive behavioral health services (IBHS) provider. Families enrolled in Medicaid through Magellan Behavioral Health of Pennsylvania will pay no out-of-pocket fees for ABA services from NeurAbilities, as these services are fully covered by that program.