About Vista Hill


Lives Touched and Transformed

Chairman Cecil Steppe and CEO Robert Dean at the annual Vista Hill Gala

Vista Hill is committed to providing individuals and families with the guidance and resources they need to improve and enhance their quality of life. It was formed as a non-profit organization devoted to helping people of all ages, from communities large and small, both within and outside of San Diego, who are confronting the challenges of mental illness, substance use disorder or intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Vista Hill Psychiatric Foundation, as we were originally known, was established in 1957. Founder Robert Thorn, along with other co-founders set out to establish local, private mental health services. Vista Hill Hospital was opened as San Diego County’s first private, fully accredited, free-standing psychiatric hospital. For several decades that followed, we expanded into a full continuum of acute and sub-acute private psychiatric services in San Diego and other markets as well as group homes, public sector services, partial day treatment and a specialty behavioral health HMO.

Vista Hill, as we are now known, is a dynamic social service organization. While the times have changed, our unwavering dedication to a mission to serve people dealing with a whole host of behavioral health conditions is evident in everything we do. We develop and maintain a diverse array of quality programs throughout San Diego County, providing services skillfully and compassionately delivered to children, teens, adults and families most in need.

Our programs range from early intervention and preventive work with children before they develop mental health issues, to youth immersed in substance use disorder to long-term special education and training for young people and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We believe an individual who has life circumstances beyond their control, and desires a positive change need not go it alone – there is help. And seeking out the help one needs is a sign of strength that is both admirable and courageous. We believe our clients deserve respect and encouragement as they acquire the tools to recover, build or improve their lives. The trust by our clients, partners and funders compels us to constantly perform and conduct ourselves in a trustworthy way.

Newsletter covers from 1967 and 2017

For over 60 years, Vista Hill has been providing these services to the community. Along with our professional, paraprofessional and support staff—who devote their lives and careers to our community—we truly believe there is nothing we can’t accomplish together.

Looking forward, we continue to identify public and private needs in order to develop programs that provide the most effective level of service possible, based upon available resources. We are committed to working with community and business leaders and to collaborate with public and private organizations.  It is through these avenues of communication that the next generation of Vista Hill program and service ideas 15 born.

For a more in depth look at our rich history and our accomplishments over the last 50 years, please read through our 50th Anniversary Booklet (PDF)