Top Workplaces: Autism care firm is No. 1 midsize workplace - Albuquerque Journal

Top Workplaces: Autism care firm is No. 1 midsize workplace

Behavior Change Institute staff member Shannon D. and her family in Edgewood joined team members from throughout the country in April to participate in a virtual run/walk designed to promote understanding and acceptance of Autism Spectrum Disorder. BCI hosts this event annually for Autism Awareness month. (Courtesy of Behavior Change Institute)

A focus on mission and care has always been part of Behavior Change Institute, an Alamogordo-based autism care provider.

BCI has seven locations across New Mexico and 150 employees working in applied behavior analysis therapy for those diagnosed with autism and their families.

This is the sixth year the behavioral health provider has made the Top Workplaces list and the second year in a row as No. 1 in the midsize employer category.

Employees said they love BCI’s atmosphere.

“I love my job because I am able to provide quality, compassionate and ethical care to clients and their families,” one staff member wrote. “It is so wonderful to work with this population and see the growth and confidence that emulates as a result! I feel comforted in knowing every decision made is client-centered and in the best interest of the client. There are no hidden agendas at BCI, just integrity and a genuine passion to help others. That mindset is not to be taken for granted in my book.”

“I feel that I am truly making a difference in this world,” another employee wrote. “BCI gives validation to my life in the sense that I am helping/supporting families in need of (applied behavior analysis) services in my community.”

Kathleen Karimi

That focus on mission hasn’t changed during the pandemic — but the stresses and anxieties pressing on BCI’s staff have changed, according to Kathleen Karimi, co-founder and CEO of business operations for the organization. Karimi said in an interview that the organization’s leaders tried to address the uncertainty of the pandemic by being flexible, supportive and creative to meet staff where they were.

How did your organization respond and adapt to the pandemic?

“On the employees’ side, we created a lot of creative, short-term benefits to address some of the challenges that our employees were experiencing as a result of the pandemic. So for example, with schools and day cares closed knowing that our employees were providing child care for their children during the day … we were able to provide flexible schedules … to accommodate having children in the workplace when … necessary. We rolled out supplemental benefits so we were able to offer financial assistance for child care for our employees, student loan repayment, because I know a lot of people were suffering financially as a result of the pandemic. And then I think a lot of our employees, like everyone else, experienced significant stress, anxiety, isolation, depression and so we were able to put in place an employee assistance program to offer 24/7 free counseling, not only for our employees, but also for their family members.”

What is the biggest challenge you faced during the pandemic?

“Leading through such uncertainty and unknown, changing our operating procedures based on constantly changing guidelines from the CDC and the state. And trying to do everything we possibly could to keep everyone safe and healthy was definitely the biggest challenge with so much unknown.”

How has your workplace shifted in the last year-and-a-half?

“We have always had work from home opportunities for our administrators as well as our telemedicine clinicians. So the work environment has not changed much, but I will say that we have bolstered our engagement opportunities as well and had to find ways where, traditionally we would meet up, our staff would meet up in person, and have casual events in downtime outside of work. And because of social distancing regulations we’ve had to find ways to creatively bring those opportunities online.”

Why do you personally still work here?

“It’s really inspiring to work for a company that is so amenable to change. We have gone through a lot of changes not just because of the pandemic, but also within our field of practice and every day is different. We have been able to innovate and grow our services and extend care in communities that would not otherwise have access. The mission truly drives me every day. The other piece that keeps me here is the people (they) are amazing and I think that this can be a difficult job, we’re providing intensive treatment to patients in their homes and it really takes a special person to feel passionate about that day in and day out and when you get all those people together, again, it’s just a really great supportive place to be.”


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