Where the Fullest Lives are Lived

By Giving List Staff   |   October 28, 2021
Hillside resident Pilar among the reindeer of Hillside’s annual Shining Light on Abilities display that takes place during December

During its 76-year history, Hillside House, a residential facility for people with moderate to severe intellectual and developmental disabilities, has grown accustomed to multiple periods of profound change. In 1955, it outgrew its building in Ojai and moved into a state-of-the-art facility in a then-remote part of Santa Barbara known as Hidden Valley. It was a different era, when many families kept their relatives with developmental disabilities hidden away from public sight. Societal mores have evolved drastically since those bygone days. Today, Hillside House celebrates and strategically engages every one of its 59 residents in the broader community. The nonprofit works eagerly in partnerships with a wide variety of local agencies and organizations like Alpha Resource Center, Easy Lift, and Assistance League.

“Hillside is an Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) where local families truly appreciate the love, care, and attention their loved ones receive. They value our individualized, person-centered approach and know that each resident is treated with dignity, and provided every opportunity to live their fullest life,” says President and CEO Michael Rassler.

Barbara celebrates her 77th birthday celebration with Ricardo Martinez

One of those residents is Ryan, who has lived at Hillside for 20 years. Since he came to the facility, his family encouraged him to meet people. He befriended neighbors and began taking out their trash. When the neighbors noticed there was no continuous sidewalk connecting the community and their home to the Hillside campus, they constructed a ramp so he could ride his electric wheelchair. 

“Hillside is a big family,” Rassler says. “It is an incredibly inspiring, welcoming, warm, and loving place where the residents, neighbors, and staff all look out for each other.”

Today, Hillside is going through another moment of transformation as societal mores continue to evolve. New government mandates are requiring that residents with development and intellectual disabilities move out of institutional living arrangements and into integrated housing. Accordingly, Hillside is embarking on a major development initiative that will incorporate senior housing at its campus, with walkways and outdoor and indoor activities for all residents in a new integrated, mixed-abilities community.

What will never change is the around-the-clock commitment to top medical and empathetic care for which Hillside House is known. Eighty-four percent of residents are non-ambulatory and most are medically fragile.

“Hillside House is unique in what it offers,” says Director of Operations Gail Metzger. “It takes a lot to give people the life that they deserve, and we do everything we can to provide that.” 



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(805) 687-0788 x111
(805) 766-0896 (m)
President & CEO: Michael S. Rassler


Our mission is to provide a home that supports our residents’ efforts to maximize their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional abilities so that they can attain their highest level of independence in an environment where people are treated with dignity and respect.

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We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s director of development and/or Executive Director.

Caring for our son JP was extremely hard on our whole family. My marriage was suffering, and I didn’t really have a relationship with our daughter. It was all so overwhelming and difficult. JP’s needs were too much for us to handle. Hillside has enabled us to be a family again. JP is happy, all his needs are being taken care of, and he is learning so much. I have a healthy marriage now, and a great relationship with our daughter. We are so grateful for the wonderful care and love Hillside provides our son.
Lisa Wilcox, Mother of JP (Hillside Resident) and Hillside Board Member

Equity and Inclusion for Hillside Residents

Hillside residents live far below the poverty level. Government reimbursements cover the bare minimum: room, board, and essential medical care. In order to help residents reach their goals, Hillside must raise in excess of $800,000 a year to fund a variety of critically important services, programs, and activities including:

• One-on-One Aides – most residents require individual care for walking or wheelchair use, dressing, eating, bathing, and toiletry;

• Speech Therapy – crucial to help residents express themselves so they can let their wants and needs be known;

• Physical Education – adaptive sports and movement increase mobility and bring residents a sense of accomplishment;

• Behavioral Therapy – decreases maladaptive behavior and teaches residents techniques to help cope with their challenges; 

• Physical Therapy – maximizes residents range of motion, reduces pain, and prevents locking of joints;

• Aquatic Therapy – helps residents gain more muscle control, increase their self-confidence, and improve physical function;

• Skills Development – to achieve greater independence such as cooking, money recognition, and using assistive technologies.

Key Supporters

Ann Jackson Family Foundation
Assistance League of Santa Barbara
Henry W. Bull Foundation
Chumash Foundation
City of SB Human Services
Demboski & Chapman Financial
Brad and Cynthia Frohling
Norris and Barry Goss
Hutton Parker Foundation
IOA Insurance Services, Inc.
Jim and Chana Jackson
Latkin Charitable Foundation
Donald Logan
June G. Outhwaite Foundation
Joan Redmond & Susan Crossley
Robert Ross
Santa Barbara Foundation
Gary Simpson/SB Home
St. Francis Foundation
Thomson Charitable Foundation
Towbes Foundation
Peter and Gina Troesch
Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation
Williams-Corbett Foundation
Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara