Providing Compassionate Care in a Loving Community

By Giving List Staff   |   November 26, 2022
Residents at Hillside form close bonds with each other, such as the friendship between Morgan, Joey, Richie, and Inga . It is a place of love.

If ever a well-known Latin phrase epitomized a venerable Santa Barbara organization, “in loco parentis” (“in place of a parent”) is a perfect fit for Hillside. Not only is Hillside entrusted by families to care for their loved ones, but it also provides an actual physical place, that is a true home, where responsibilities and duties are matched with care, love, encouragement, and the fulfillment of potential. 

From its inception nearly 80 years ago, Hillside has offered intensive medical support and empathetic caregiving for people challenged with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Originally conceived in the late 1930s as a model residential facility for children with cerebral palsy, Hillside now provides state-of-the-art services to an adult I/DD population on a picturesque 24-acre setting in the Hidden Valley neighborhood of Santa Barbara. Beyond medical support and 24-hour nursing care, Hillside programs include aquatic therapy, physical therapy, recreational therapy, sensory motor training, independent living skills training, and occupational therapy. 

Madison Rowe, our Director of Programs, helps Nancy plant a succulent in a clay pot. Hillside was fortunate to have wheelchair accessible planter boxes donated by the Adams Legacy Foundation, providing residents with sensory stimulation, purpose, and joy.

A key difference that puts Hillside in the vanguard of similar adult facilities is their emphasis on person-centered care. Program design and participation are a joint venture between staff and residents, so each resident has the greatest opportunity to achieve their highest level of independence and accomplishment, while living in a respectful and loving environment. 

President and CEO Michael Rassler describes the prevailing atmosphere at Hillside for both residents and staff, “Every day is inspiring, realizing how much the same we all are.” Rassler notes how connected the Hillside family is with staff and residents caring for each other, working together to solve challenges and to achieve the best outcomes. 

“The staff and our residents are constantly engaged, and the end result is their justifiable pride,” he says. Even the challenge of the pandemic proved the resourcefulness of the staff and residents, who expanded on-campus opportunities when leaving Hillside was not possible.

If any single resident personifies the homey spirit of Hillside, it’s Barbara, now age 78, who came to Hillside as a nine-year-old child in 1944. Rassler calls her Hillside’s “mother hen to a lot of chicks.” She has taken on many roles with residents: friend, mentor, project partner, and “family” member. As the resident who has called Hillside “home” the longest, Barbara’s seniority, as well as her remarkable memory, has earned her the right to be the one who tells all the stories at “celebration of life ceremonies.” 

From the parental perspective, the mother of another resident, J.P., expresses profound relief and comfort, knowing her son is getting the care and services his family could not provide. J.P. came to Hillside six years ago when he turned 21. His parents and sister are amazed and pleased at the growth they have seen in him. The reality of trying to care for a severely challenged child had a major impact on each familial relationship. Now J.P.’s parents and sibling have rebuilt their sense of family while finding stronger, healthier ways to interact with their son and brother. 

As it turns out, Hillside creates a new definition of family that improves life for everyone.



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(805) 687-0788, x111
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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Hillside is a critically important part of a healthy community because we do need to care for those who are least able to care for themselves.
Norris Goss
Hillside Board of Directors

It Takes a Village

Hillside’s 59 residents are served by 100 staff, encompassing nurses, therapists, instructors, and program facilitators. To provide its daily opportunities, Hillside requests program funds for:

$144,000: Behavioral Therapy 

$48,000: Speech Therapy

$40,000: Sensory Calming Room 

$35,000: Community Outreach

$32,540: Physical Education (land and water)

$7,200: Music Therapy 

Key Supporters

Adams Legacy Foundation
Assistance League of Santa Barbara
Henry W. Bull Foundation
CDBG Human Services
Ray and Susan Dingman
Gardner Grout Foundation
Barry and Norris Goss
Hutton Parker Foundation
Ann Jackson Family Foundation
Robert and Jan Kopf
Latkin Charitable Foundation
Montecito Bank & Trust
Mosher Foundation
Outhwaite Foundation
Santa Barbara Foundation
Chumash Foundation
Judy A. Shea
St. Francis Foundation
Thomson Charitable Foundation
Towbes Foundation
Peter and Gina Troesch
Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation
Valmark Global Gift Fund
Williams-Corbett Foundation