“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is the most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin
Although Charles Darwin was not talking about the current business climate, given this past year’s economics, it seems fitting for all organizations to revisit their responsiveness to an ever-changing environment. This ability to adapt could mean the difference between staying in business or joining the ranks of the extinct.
Hilltop has been in existence since 1950 in large part due to the organization’s ability to adapt and change as needed. In the course of the past 59 years, three significant transformations have occurred, with countless smaller adaptations in between.
The Beginning: 1950 - 1969
Hilltop began with two employees as the Mesa County Society for Crippled Children & Adults with the singular focus of providing outpatient rehabilitation at the height of the polio epidemic. After Jonas Salk created the polio vaccination in 1955, there was an immediate decrease in the need for polio therapy and polio was fully eliminated in the United States by 1979. This created the first major crossroads in Hilltop’s history –was the job done or should the organization adapt its new found skills in rehabilitation to expand its services and mission?
Hilltop expanded the outpatient rehabilitation model to include occupational therapy and speech therapy until the organization identified the need for inpatient services as well. Hilltop built the rehabilitation hospital to fulfill the need for a full-service inpatient and outpatient facility and grew to 450 employees. The hospital, complete with a therapeutic pool continued to grow and ultimately began meeting all the rehabilitation needs between Salt Lake City and Denver. This remained the primary focus of Hilltop until 1996, when it was determined that the community would be best served by selling the rehabilitation facilities and expertise to St. Mary’s Hospital versus competing and duplicating services with the hospital. After the sale of the rehabilitation hospital, now St. Mary’s Life Center, Hilltop shrank from 450 employees to 120. The remaining programs available to the community at this time included youth services, residential brain injury services at the Life Adjustment Program, and assisted living services at The Atrium. Hilltop had arrived to its second major transformation. What was the mission accomplished or should Hilltop look for new ways to serve the public?
Hilltop decided to adapt once again and utilize what they had learned about social and community integration to create a functional continuum of community based services. This adaptation was prompted by Hilltop’s merge with The Resource Center organization, expanding its scope to include services for domestic violence, early childhood, prenatal, and employment training. During this timeframe, Hilltop’s services continued to evolve. Assisted living programs expanded creating The Fountains and The Commons; the employment training grew into the Workforce center, a partnership with Mesa County; youth services expanded with residential services and alternative education programming and the early childhood and prenatal programs grew into a Child & Family Center. This evolution included reaching outside of Grand Junction, resulting in a Regional Office located in Montrose. In meeting the needs of our growing communities, Hilltop now provides 24 programs with services ranging from pre-natal care to assisted living in Mesa, Delta, Montrose and Ouray counties.
This past year may well be remembered as another adaptive shift in Hilltop’s history. Although it will not be as dramatic as Jonas Salk’s vaccination or the sale of the rehabilitation hospital to St. Mary’s, the economic downturn provides Hilltop with numerous new opportunities to craft a new future as an organization. The challenge will be to determine how the organization can serve an increased number of people in need of Hilltop’s services with fewer available resources.
As Hilltop moves forward, one thing is certain, change will always occur and adaption will always be needed in order to not only survive, but to thrive. Hilltop is no stranger to change and the organization will always remain dedicated to it’s core mission and values – to serve the underserved or those not served, improve quality of life for individuals in the communities served, foster internal resources - employees, collaborate with other agencies and organizations for the betterment of all, and to keep an eye to the future to anticipate emerging needs.