PALS Inc. began providing services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in 1999 with an emphasis on therapeutic supports for people with a history of mental health challenges, trauma and/or challenging behaviors. Our assessment and treatment approaches are rooted in behavioral psychology and trauma informed tools to assist us in developing a positive behavior support plan. At the core of our philosophy is the knowledge that the adults we support are the subjects of their own experience, and getting to know them is a critical aspect of of our success. Our motto is "...Because behavior modification begins with a smile" and it directs us to the fundamental acknowledgement that behavior change begins with the first small step: a smile is a great place to start!
PALS Leadership Team
Otieno Okatch, M.A.
President and Executive Director
Mr. Otieno Jafri Okatch serves as the President and Executive Director of PALS, Inc. Within the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities, he has over 30 years of experience. Previously, Mr. Okatch received his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara for his undergraduate education and received Master's degrees from UCLA and from Pepperdine University. He holds a Master of Arts Degree in Clinical Psychology.
Mr. Okatch began his career working for Work Training Program, Inc. (now PathPoint) in Santa Barbara and went on to work as a behaviorial therapist under supervision, as well as a therapist for Foster Family Agencies supporting permanent placements for foster children. Over the past twenty years, Mr. Okatch has operated residential homes, and adult day care programs as the founder of PALS agency. Mr. Okatch is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program and has been named by Forbes Magazine as an up and coming executive to watch. Mr. Okatch is fond of saying that he is a "professional caregiver" and takes tremendous pride in caring for others.
Christina Buth-Okatch, B.A.
V.P. & Director of Operations
Christina Buth-Okatch serves as Vice-President and Director of Operations for PALS, Inc. Ms. Buth-Okatch has provided 16 years of service for people with intellectual developmental disabilities in residential, school and day program setting. Previously, Christina Buth-Okatch attend and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching from California State University of Long Beach. During Christina's association with teaching, she has been given opportunities to teach students with low academic performance. In addition, Christina supported and connected families with community resources (Section 8, Cal Fresh, free childcare/afterschool, WIC, and parent training classes) in under served communities.
Ms. Buth-Okatch has extensive knowledge in curriculum development, cultural recognition and needs assessment for at-risk students. Christina uses her teaching experience along with Person-Center practices to oversee program development at PALS, Inc. Christina is a certified Instructor for Crisis Prevention Intervention Specialized Trauma Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (CPI) and First Aide/CPR for Children /Adults. Currently, Christina Buth-Okatch is completing her course work on becoming a Person-Centered Trainer, Facilitator and Planner. Christina is bilingual in English and Khmer language.
Salvador Avila, M.A.
Director of Workforce Development
Salvador Avila serves as the Director of Workforce Development (DWD) of PALS, Inc. Mr. Avila implements Person-Centered practices, including training and strategies. For the past 7 years, Mr. Avila has provided services for adults with intellectual disabilities, as well as directed PALS Simi Valley, with a focus on community outreach. As the (DWD) Mr. Avila assists staff and management in attaining their work goals. Supporting PALS employees through encouragement and appreciation is a priority.
Mr. Avila earned his Master’s Degree in history from California State University at Los Angeles (CSULA) and his Bachelor of Arts from California State University at Northridge. Mr. Avila began his career as an educator, teaching seventh grade medieval history. Mr. Avila is fluently bilingual in English and Spanish. Currently Mr. Avila is completing his course work in Person-Centered Trainer, Facilitator and Planner. In his free time, Mr. Avila enjoys hiking, reading history books, and droneography.
Winfred Narh, MBA
Winfred Narh serves as the Program Director for PALS Behavior Management Day Program in Hawthorne, CA. Mr. Narh earned his Bachelors of Art in Sociology from University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Following his degree he worked as a Residential Counselor who provided treatment, guidance, and in-depth living skills for adults with disabilities.
He continued his education and received a Masters of Arts in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. Mr. Narh has worked as a Job Developer for the Goodwill to help people obtain jobs. In continuation with his efforts to help this population, he was a Service Coordinator at the Harbor Regional Center for 8 years. With the array of experiences Mr. Narh has working with this population, he is a great contribution to PALS Inc. Currently, Mr. Narh is completing his course work for Person-Centered Facilitator.
Ms. Gloria Gallegos is an experienced Program Director with 20 years of working experience in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Ms. Gallegos started as a Direct Care Support in residential and day services setting (WAP, SLS, ILS, TDS and BMP). She was promoted from Direct Care Staff Support to Program Manager and is now Program Director for PALS EL Monte Behavior Management Day Program. Ms. Gloria Gallegos has extensive knowledge and insight of day program services. Ms. Gallegos is a skilled certified trainer in both emergency intervention techniques thru the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI), and First Aid/CPR. Ms. Gallegos is fluently bilingual in English and Spanish language.
Mr. Aaron Vindel serves as the Program Director of PALS Behavior Management Day Program in Downey, California. He has over 17 years in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Mr. Vindel started working in this field as a Instruction Assistant for Autism services in school setting to a Behavior Specialist for adults with psychiatric support at College Hospital and currently directing PALS Downey Program. Aaron has great success in collaborating with agencies to transition adults from treatment centers to community life.
Arnold Hernandez, M.A.
Mr. Arnold Hernandez serves as the Program Director of PALS Santa Barbara Autism Center. He has over 18 years in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Mr. Hernandez received a Bachelor's of Art in Psychology from California State University of Northridge. Once completing undergraduate, Arnold was Acting Director of Behavior Services, where he supervise the implementation of Applied Behavioral Analyst, Adaptive Adapt Skill Training, social skills training in residential treatment centers. Arnold worked closely with agencies to transition people from residential treatment center and/or the Development Centers to community living. Furthering his education, Mr. Hernandez attended the National University, where he received a Master's of Art in Teaching with a emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis. Current, he is completing his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Capella University. Mr. Hernandez has extensive experience in conducting functional assessment, formulating behavioral support plans/protocols, and providing behavior modification training for people (individuals and families) in a variety of work settings. Mr. Hernandez is fluent in English and Spanish languages.
Ashmini "Ash" Galardi, MA
Ashmini Galardi is an accomplished professional and holds a Master of Arts degree from Pepperdine University and has nearly two decades experience in working with adults and children in a variety of demanding settings.