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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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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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