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With Autism Services set to dissolve, nonprofit's programming to transfer to People Inc., Summit Center
Buffalo News - 11/15/2023
Nov. 15—An Amherst-based nonprofit organization that provides services to those with autism is planning to close early next year, though its programming will continue once it is transferred to two other Western New York agencies.
Autism Services Inc. is on a path toward dissolving as a result of "significant operational and financial challenges, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic," according to an announcement Wednesday issued by People Inc. and the Summit Center, the two agencies that will assume Autism Services' programs.
As of Feb. 1, the plan is for Autism Services' programs that are funded by the state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities to be transferred to People Inc. Autism Services currently supports about 175 people in day programs, group homes and other programs funded and regulated by OPWDD.
Meanwhile, the Summit Center will expand its school services on or about Feb. 1 to provide school-age educational programs to current students attending Autism Services' schools. Autism Services operates two state Education Department-certified school-age special education programs that serve about 100 students in Buffalo and Amherst.
Earlier this year, Autism Services approached People Inc. in search of an affiliation to provide assistance with administrative, back office and managerial support, People Inc. officials said.
People Inc. hired an outside accounting firm to evaluate Autism Services' financial viability, with the findings showing "an operating deficit that threatened the continuation of Autism Services' programs and services," the agencies said. Despite efforts to stabilize its operations, Autism Services' board of directors decided the only way to preserve its services was to transition them to other agencies.
"After the results of our due diligence, we are grateful to have arrived at this best-case scenario, with The Summit Center taking on what they do best, and People Inc. doing what we do best," People Inc. President and CEO Anne McCaffrey said. "In the end, the people served and their families remain the focus."
The OPWDD services that People Inc. is assuming include 12 group homes with a total of 53 residents and two day programs serving 64 people.
Autism Services' financial struggles were relatively recent, according to a review of its annual reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service. In 2021 — the most recent annual report publicly available — Autism Services' recorded revenue of $17.3 million, which was about $867,000 higher than its expenses that year. Also in 2021, Autism Services reported $3.6 million in liabilities, which was up from about $1.1 million in the prior year.
The nonprofit organization also was profitable in 2018 through 2020 but recorded a nearly $671,000 loss in 2017.
McCaffrey and Lisa Foti, the incoming CEO of the Summit Center, said they are planning for "little or no disruption to the day-to-day services currently provided" by Autism Services. The two agencies plan to offer employment opportunities to Autism Services employees and keep the schools and programs in the same locations.
"We know that change can be very disruptive for students with autism, so our initial focus is on the seamless continuation of educational services provided by staff members they know and trust," Foti said.
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