Hilltop cuts staff, services

An overarching Grand Junction-based nonprofit organization is reshuffling employees, letting some staff go as grant dollars expire and scaling some programs back to basics.

Hilltop, an agency with approximately 540 employees that is celebrating its 60th year of providing services from beginning- to end-of-life care, this year has let go 14 employees in various departments. Many of them had been hired on because of grant dollars and were aware the funds may not be renewed each year, Hilltop’s Michelle Smith said. Other employees are being assigned to other departments.

In January, Latimer House closed a second safe house that was used as six-month transitional housing after the clients were stabilized at the main safe house. The number of clients needing the transitional housing service decreased since last summer, Smith said.

“While it was painful, it needed to be done,” she said.

Latimer House staff was reduced by two full-time positions, down to five full-time positions, with the biggest losses to be in the programs for Spanish-speaking clients. One Spanish-speaking employee will be brought back from a different area, Smith said.

Latimer House already must be subsidized $100,000 a year to make ends meet. Apartments owned by Hilltop will be used to fill the need for second-stage housing.

The much-in-demand Life Adjustment Program, which offers permanent housing for brain-injured individuals, has plans to expand into on-campus housing currently used for youth residential programs.

Some of the financial losses stem from a decreases in grant dollars. The second-stage shelter was funded with the help of a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That money was pulled this year as department officials deemed the funds could better benefit more-pressing causes.

Income from other programs has dropped off. Medicaid reimbursement rates for clients at the Life Adjustment Program have been reduced. And, senior-citizen independent-living housing at The Cottages is not being rented as readily as in the past, in part because home sales are down.

“A lot of people need to sell their house to have the resources to move in,” Smith said. “They are saying they can do the yard work for one more year as they wait for their houses to sell.”

There is less demand for Hilltop’s Child & Family Services program, which resulted in officials reshuffling employees to other programs.

Much of the grant funding Hilltop receives is tied to how well the stock market fares, because large philanthropic groups donate earnings, Smith said. She said some larger, consistent donors recently said they may choose to give to another, needier program, thinking Hilltop, because of its size, can find ways to make up the difference.

“In times like these we have to prioritize the needs,” she said. “We’re going to the bones. When the money comes back we can grow it back up again. The truth is we will be more efficient. The good part is in the long run we’re going to be stronger.”


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