April Spaulding, executive director of Abrazos Family Support Services in Bernalillo, showcases an autism-specific therapy room inside the organization’s new building. Matt Hollinshead photo.

BERNALILLO — Abrazos Family Support Services sought to expand operations for autism-related therapy and beef up its staff to address a growing need for such services.

That’s where the organization’s new two-story, 5,000-square-foot building, which was unveiled Thursday, enters the picture.

Executive Director April Spaulding said the building features an autism-specific therapy room for Abrazos’ new Applied Behavior Analysis program. She also said Abrazos, at 412 Camino Don Tomas in Bernalillo, needed that extra classroom space, as well as more space to accommodate additional staff members the organization plans to hire. She said Abrazos plans to go from around 30 staffers to nearly 50 staffers within the next year.

“We’re thrilled to be able to serve children and families in the area,” Spaulding said. “We never offered ABA therapy in the past. But considering the high levels of need in our area, we heard the call from the community and decided to go ahead and start providing that service.”

She also said the new entry-level staff vacancies will be filled with recent high school graduates, or even college students who are majoring in programs like special education.

“We will train them; we will get them certified,” Spaulding said. “The great thing about that role is that it can be flexible. It can be part-time, full-time, but they’re all employees; no contractors.”

She said Abrazos is anticipating those new roles will help bring in about $2 million to go back into the local economy. She also said filling those roles will help reduce the waiting-list time for families needing services, which is currently about 18 months.

“The sooner we can get in with a child and support that family, the sooner we can start to see the positive impact of the services. Studies show that only 12 percent of New Mexican families who have an autism diagnosis are receiving adequate services,” she said.

Spaulding said Abrazos is seeing an increase in referrals for families who either couldn’t make it to a pediatrician or were uncomfortable having at-home services.

She said she hopes Abrazos can start providing on-site services at the new building within the next few months. She also said the new building has the potential to serve up to 125 families within three to five years.

Abrazos serves Sandoval and Bernalillo counties, Spaulding said. She also said those in need of Abrazos’ services can call the facility at (505) 867-3396.