Caravel ‘hasn’t skipped a beat’ during pandemic

Clinical directors Linnea Bantam and Michelle Ghosh outside Caravel Autism Health in White Bear Lake. The clinic provides intensive autism treatment for children 18 months to 18 years.

Businesses have had their doors closed for months now, and although many are doing their best to reopen and provide services to the community, few would dare to hold a grand opening celebration right now. Except Caravel Autism Health.

Caravel is opening five new locations in the Twin Cities, including one in White Bear Lake, raising the number of its facilities in the state to seven. On May 27, Caravel held a social-distancing ribbon-cutting for its White Bear Lake clinic. The company’s goal is to close the provider gap in Minnesota and help children with autism get the care they need.

“We provide intensive autism treatment for children 18 months to 18 years. In addition to providing treatment for children, we support families,” said Jackie Vick, vice president of Minnesota clinical operations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 54 children in the U.S. has autism. In Minnesota, those numbers jump to 1 in 44. The result? Not enough providers and clinics for families. Many children wait months to get in for a diagnosis and then can be on wait lists for even longer to see providers.

“Research shows the earlier a child receives treatment, the better their outcome and long-term prognosis,” Vick said.

Caravel uses applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment plans to help children with autism develop skills, create connections and gain confidence. 

“We also serve as a resource hub. We get a lot of calls from individuals looking for additional information or support,” Vick said.

Simply being in a community can also help spread the awareness of autism and help families find resources that can help them to function.

The pandemic came as a surprise to the business, but it found ways to adapt.

“At Caravel, we haven’t skipped a beat,” said Linnea Bantam, clinical director at the firm’s Woodbury location. “We’ve always been in the mindset that we will open and we will provide these services to the families.”

Originally the organization was going to open the doors of some of its locations in March but postponed the grand opening events to make sure they were able to serve the community in a safe manner.

As for cleaning, Caravel maintained strict cleaning protocols before the onset of COVID-19 but has increased clinic cleaning procedures. For a short time, the company moved diagnostics and care online via telehealth to current clients.

“I definitely feel confident with the protocols we have in place. I feel safe in the clinic,” said Michele Ghosh, the clinical director at the White Bear Lake location.

“We have a lot of resources. Being able to turn to our resources helped us to feel confident to deliver our support in a safe manner,” Vick said.

One thing that has been a challenge for the group during the pandemic is helping parents from afar.

“It was hard to hear from parents when parents are moved from a parent role to having to be a teacher and a therapist and everything else,” Vick said.

Allowing patients back for in-person care is one less thing for parents to worry about and helps them provide their best services and get patients the care they need. 

“This has been a challenging time for all families, especially for those who have a child with autism,” said Vick. “We know families need the services we’re bringing to the Twin Cities, and we’re committed to delivering on our promise to them.”

Opening during the pandemic was never a question for this group. They are essential, and have been considered essential since the beginning of the pandemic. 

“Children need access to diagnoses and treatment. Children should not be sitting on a waiting list,” Vick said.

The White Bear Clinic is located at 1011 Meadowlands Drive in Suites 1-2. Caravel Autism Health is currently scheduling appointments for diagnostic evaluations and ABA therapy. Parents in the Twin Cities area can call 507-322-7752 to schedule appointments with Caravel’s autism health specialists. 

For a complete list of Caravel Autism Health’s Minnesota locations, visit caravelautism.com/locations.

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