• Sexual Wellness Services

Call: (760) 323-2118
8am to 5pm Mon - Fri

Where Did All This Peanut Allergy Come F …

Where Did All This Peanut Allergy Come From?

Words by Ellen Bluestein

 

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, as of 2017, 2.5% of children in the United States have peanut allergy. While that percentage may seem small, it translates to more than 1.8 million kids with a potentially fatal condition. 

 

“Probably about 20 years ago, it was clear that this was not only a growing problem, but it had already become a public health problem in the United States and around the world,” says Dr. Andrew Liu, a pediatric allergist at the University of Colorado. “I don’t know that we’re sure why or how peanut allergy has become so prevalent. But I think it’s pretty clear that it’s real.”

 

Researchers have been exploring several possible hypotheses. One — the hygiene theory — explores the idea that with the advent of germ-killing cleaning products, our environments no longer provide the exposure to microbes that the immune system recognizes and learns to fight off.

 

“What is a microbe-rich environment? One where we’re living around a lot of animals,” says Dr. Liu. “There have been a lot of studies where it looks like allergies are less common in kids growing up in farming environments or in developing nations where people live very closely to their animals. Some people think … that the immune system doesn’t see enough of those microbial exposures early because we’ve gone and cleaned up our environment.”

 

Early exposure to peanuts — between four and six months of age — may be one way to reduce the allergy. “The original observation was in Israel, where they had this teething cracker called Bamba which has peanut in it,” says Dr. Liu. “And they observed that within communities where this was a common cultural practice, the prevalence of peanut allergy in the kids was really low compared to what they were seeing in other communities.”

 

This led to more research and ultimately a definitive study on prevention. Children were given Bamba or a derivative, and then followed. Those who received the cracker were unlikely to develop peanut allergy compared to those who didn’t get it. “It looked like early exposure … when our bodies are learning about what is safe … is an essential time period,” says Dr. Liu. “If the immune system learns that the peanut is not something to be concerned about, then that stays.”

 

While there is still much to be discovered, Dr. Liu is optimistic that there will be remedies for those who suffer from the life-threatening condition. “There’s work going on to develop treatments to either reduce or prevent the severe reactions to those who are peanut allergic,” he says. “There continues to be investment in a lot of research … to try to get to that place where there are treatments that can be helpful for people and young kids who are allergic.”

The Science of Positivity

The Science of Positivity

“Never say never because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.” — Michael Jordan

Words by Kay Kudukis

 

In the 1990s, a recurring skit on SNL called “Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley” had Al Franken portraying an insecure, support group-addicted, self-help schlub in a cardigan. He was the antithesis of the popular, flashy, mindset gurus like Tony Robbins. Stuart would frequently look at himself in the mirror and say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and, doggone it, people like me.”

Although Franken was poking fun at the new fad, it wasn’t very new. Over 3,000 years ago, the Greeks were writing meditations and guidelines touting the best ways to live. The idea is actually 5,000 years old, but back then there was no alphabet, which made writing hard.

By the 1800s, poets and renowned authors were onto it, but scientists didn’t take notice until the 1970s, when they asked, “Is there anything to this?” It took a few decades, and a lot of studies, but the answer is — in wildly unscientific terms — it’s definitely a thing. Turns out, there’s true power in the science of positivity!

Yes, science. The University of Chapel Hill conducts a Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory studying “how positive emotions affect people’s thinking patterns, social behavior, health, and physiological reactions.” Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic promote positive thinking to lower blood sugar and high blood pressure, and to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by lowering cortisol.

The human brain is the most complex thing in the known universe, and yours is fueled by your thoughts. Ever heard that if you repeat a lie long enough it becomes the truth? If your brain is filled with negative self-chatter, it will come to believe it. If your inner monologue is positive, the brain responds, and your stress levels decrease along with your blood pressure.

There is another tool called “reframing” that makes you more productive. It’s where “I hate doing the dishes” becomes “I can’t wait to get these dishes done and have a nice clean sink.” Such positivity releases dopamine and serotonin into your system, and if you add a smile? Well, a study at the University of Kansas concluded that smiling is such a powerful source of endorphins that your stress levels go down even when you fake a smile. So now you’ve got a buzzy cocktail of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins in you, and the dishes are done.

If you need a little extra help, DAP Health is here for you. Its medical professionals won’t do your dishes, but they do have some unique Wellness Services, including a Zoom group based on positivity and related to achieving goals.

Michael Jordan didn’t get to be the GOAT by talent alone. In fact, he attributes his success to positive thinking. He never told himself he couldn’t. “I can accept failure,” he famously said. “Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

So be like Michael. Flip that switch. It’s not going to make you a great basketball player, but you’ll absolutely, positively, win at this game we call life.

Safer Drug Use Saves Lives

Safer Drug Use Saves Lives

 

Improving Fentanyl Overdose Outcomes Is Just One Facet Of DAP Health’s New Harm Reduction Program

 

Words by Jim Macak

 

Tom (not his real name) is a tall, thin, handsomely weathered 67-year-old Maui native raised in Long Beach. He’s been HIV-positive for 17 years, unhoused in Palm Springs for 12, and a moderate crystal meth user for 10. 

He discovered DAP Health’s Harm Reduction Program about a year ago, thanks to his daily attendance at Well in the Desert’s hot meal service. DAP Health’s team — Community Health Harm Reduction Supervisor Neil Gussardo, Educator Bree Clark-Pharr, and longtime volunteer Suzanne Petersen — shows up twice a week at this location. Tom recalls that, without any reservation, he jumped at the chance to benefit from their provision of clean bubble bowls, which are the part of glass pipes where methamphetamine is heated.

“They’re completely compassionate,” Tom says of Gussardo, Clark-Pharr, and Petersen. “They’re sensitive to your needs. They want you to have the safest equipment for your drug use. They’re very supportive without ever pushing recovery on you.” In fact, he recommends the program to all his unhoused friends who use drugs.

Gussardo is no newcomer to serving people experiencing substance use disorder. He has worked in the field for more than 20 years, beginning his career in San Francisco, then transitioning to the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage. He has been with DAP Health since February 2022, and explains that the Harm Reduction Program has two priorities. The first is to provide equipment that will reduce the transmission of HIV, hepatitis C, and other illnesses. 

Specifically, the program provides fresh syringes, gift cards as an incentive for those who bring in used syringes, alcohol swabs and cotton filters for injections, test strips to determine if a more dangerous synthetic opioid like fentanyl is mixed in with other drugs, cookers to help convert drugs in solid form to liquid, and clean pipes, glass bubble bowls, pipe extensions, and foil used in smoking opiates.

The second priority, Gussardo says, is to distribute opioid overdose treatments proven effective, such as injectable naloxone and the nasal spray Narcan (recently approved for over-the-counter sales by the FDA, and likely available by late summer). Persons who overdose cannot typically self-administer such aids, so the products are provided to fellow users who can come to the rescue should need be. Proper training for administering overdose therapy is provided as well.

The reaction to this program has been positive. But occasional negative comments are not uncommon from passersby who learn what services Gussardo and his colleagues supply. “We absolutely encounter folks who think we’re enabling drug use rather than reducing the risk of harm,” he says, adding that by diminishing disease transmission, the program is saving society a considerable amount of money and time spent treating people infected with HIV or hep C. “We’re helping alleviate a drain on the system, person by person.”

More importantly, according to Gussardo, “It’s been reported to us from our participants that they’ve used either naloxone or Narcan provided by DAP Health to reverse 104 overdoses from September through January. That’s 104 lives saved.” 

The Harm Reduction Program took root in the middle of 2022, at a time when overdoses from fentanyl had become an epidemic throughout the country. The drug is a legally prescribed painkiller, but in the last 10 years it has become a widely used street drug that’s up to 50 times stronger than heroine and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s often added to other drugs because of its extreme potency which, according to the CDC, makes substances cheaper, more powerful, more addictive, and much more dangerous. The number of overdose deaths involving fentanyl, the CDC reports, shot up from 1,615 in 2012 to more than 71,000 in 2021.

According to the California Department of Public Health, there were 408 overdose deaths involving fentanyl in 2021 in Riverside County. Statistics on confirmed overdose deaths for 2022 are not yet available. Sheriff Chad Bianco told City News Service last October that the rate of fentanyl poisonings is soaring, and that the number of confirmed deaths “is going to increase significantly.” 

The majority of participants in DAP Health’s Harm Reduction Program, Gussardo says, are unhoused. Twice a week, his team drives its van to churches on the western end of the Coachella Valley, linking arms with the aforementioned Well in the Desert, a nonprofit that provides hot meals five days a week for working poor, persons without homes, and others. 

When Gussardo, Clark-Pharr, and Petersen aren’t with Well in the Desert, they look for encampments. And if people at these locations are interested, the team works with them, too.

“We’re not doing counseling,” maintains Gussardo, “but we do see people on a repeat basis. Sometimes we see the same person twice a week. And we’re building a rapport with them, building trust, and providing referrals for additional services.”

Gussardo reveals the Harm Reduction Program has started reaching out to another group he refers to as “the party and play crowd” — gay men who, in sexual situations, occasionally use crystal meth, and who “potentially share syringes” — by establishing a Thursday evening presence on Palm Springs’ Arenas Road, where a number of gay bars are located. While still in its infancy, that initiative is slowly but surely building a clientele. 

Next steps, Gussardo says, will include strategically based vending machines allowing for 24-hour access to complimentary safer-use materials such as Narcan and clean paraphernalia.

One theme Gussardo stresses in terms of harm reduction generally is how much of the population stigmatizes those who use drugs. Based on his experience in talking with those who use, he says that when these people reach out for help, they’re often met “with all the stigma of addiction. They’re met with people who don’t treat them as human beings, which then becomes a barrier to any kind of treatment.”

Part of the solution, Gussardo maintains, would be to reference “a person who uses drugs” as simply that, or as a person with a substance use disorder — rather than as a drug addict. This is part of a “people first” use of language to reduce the impact of stigma that Gussardo and other Harm Reduction team members emphasize.

Does this approach really work? According to Tom, it definitely does.

Anyone interested in receiving clean supplies is encouraged to visit DAP Health’s Harm Reduction team in the field.
Call 760.323.2118, Extension 504, to inquire about schedules and locations. 

The Vision is Moving Forward

The vision is moving forward

 

DAP Health’s campus expansion gains momentum

 

Words by Ellen Bluestein

 

Vision Forward, DAP Health’s 10-year strategic plan, continues to gain momentum in 2023. The initiative, which will expand the organization’s ability to serve clients — from 10,000 to 25,000 annually — is slated to be complete by 2025.

The impetus for DAP Health to grow is a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “With [the ACA], lower-income Californians gained access to health insurance for the first time,” says DAP Health CEO David Brinkman. “All of a sudden, demand increased dramatically, and that’s when we knew we needed to be able to respond to this opportunity to increase the health and well-being of our community.”

The first phase of the campaign included purchasing the former Riverside County Health structure (renamed the Annette Bloch CARE Building) adjacent to DAP Health’s Barbara Keller LOVE Building, and renovating it to accommodate three primary care clinics and a sexual wellness clinic. “To me, it’s all about creating more access points to people in our community,” says Director of Community Health and Sexual Wellness C.J. Tobe. “And opening these new clinics in this capital expansion — that’s exactly what it is. It’s going to serve more people, and people are going to be healthier and happier. 

“Sexual wellness is really a gateway for people who don’t have access to community resources or to any primary care, behavioral health, or dental care,” continues Tobe. “They use sexual wellness as the first step to engage in some system to get support. And so, when you talk about opening a clinic … you’re opening a door to a community to say, ‘Hey, let’s have a conversation about your health and wellness.’”

With the clinics complete, the focus is on working with the Coachella Valley Housing Authority to create a second permanent supportive housing structure, named Vista Sunrise II, that will offer 61 new affordable-housing units on DAP Health’s Palm Springs campus. “The construction is moving fast,” says Brinkman. “It’s just a few months behind, and its completion impacts the next phase of construction.”

Given the current cost and availability of construction materials and labor, delays will actually help the project. “It behooves the organization to take its time, hoping that material supply-chain issues will be resolved, and inflation, materials, and labor will normalize,” says Principal Architect Maria Song of International Design Corporation, the firm leading the project. “That’s important because I think people are going, ‘Why is it taking so long?’ But there’s a real benefit to waiting right now.”

Once Vista Sunrise II opens, the next phase — building the Desert Care Network Health Pavilion — will accelerate. The 19,000-square-foot structure will bridge the Barbara Keller LOVE Building and the Annette Bloch CARE Building, and will boast a central registration area for all clinical services, a diagnostic lab, a pharmacy, and a café with outdoor seating that will be open to the public and staffed and managed by clients of DAP Health’s Return-to-Work program.

A driveway will route clients to this new main entrance, and pedestrian-friendly pathways will link it to the rest of the campus. The existing entrance on Sunrise Way will be repurposed into a service entrance for deliveries, and a new entrance will be created by Vista Sunrise II. The Vista Chino entrance will remain as is.

“These are really impressive plans, both literally and figuratively,’ says Song. “And it’s going to make such a huge difference to [DAP Health’s] programs and what’s offered.” According to Song, it will take a year and a half to complete the pavilion. Current estimates for its opening range from June 2024 to the end of that year.

The overall campus design, including the pavilion and the housing project, was approved last year by the city of Palm Springs during what is called the entitlement process. “This is when the campus developer submits to the city the entire design and legal information of what they propose to do based on a general plan,” explains Song. Next is the plan check, which “means that the plan examiner of the city’s Building Department will be reviewing the plan for construction to see that it meets the building code, the energy code, the plumbing code, and the
structural code.”

While working with the Building Department during this process — which can take up to six weeks and involves correcting and reworking any code issues that are found — Song and her team will develop a tenant-improvement plan which fleshes out the plans for the interior of the buildings. Once permitting is approved, Song will select the general contractor and all the subcontractors, making sure the project comes in within budget.

“The city of Palm Springs Building Department has been very collaborative,” Song reveals. “DAP Health is an established and important organization here in the valley. The city knows and supports that.” 

Collaboration has been a key part of the entire Vision Forward planning process, and it will continue as DAP Health’s leadership works with Song to finalize the interior design. From the beginning, the goal was to create the look and feel of bringing the outside indoors, which will be achieved by using organic materials throughout the pavilion. With that, “those qualitative words now become quantitative in specification material selection,” says Song.

Song identifies the expansion as two separate projects: the west space (which includes the pavilion) and the east space (which is mostly facade improvements, exterior building upgrades, and smaller additions). The east space “is more of a site design,” says Song. But because the buildings are exposed and visually integrated with the image of the city, “any design that we do would have to go as a major architectural application so that [when] we get the concept approved … we can start developing the plans for construction,” she continues. 

Design of the east space will begin as construction is underway on the west area. That way, by the time construction is finished on the latter, plans will be approved for work to begin on the former.

As plans continue to evolve, input from staff becomes a vital part of the process. It also speaks to DAP Health’s mission of inclusion and collaboration. “There’s a saying that goes, ‘If it involves me, involve me,’ and so that’s what we do,” says Chief of Clinical Operations Carol Wood. “We really do get right down to the root of it, even to the extent of asking nurses and medical assistants, ‘What’s going to make your job more efficient, and how are you going to be able to do a better job for your patients in your role?’”

With the expansion of the campus comes the expansion of the definition of health care itself. No longer does it just include traditional physical well-being. “We have a very unique campus model,” says Brinkman. “It’s one that acknowledges that health care is access to housing, health care is access to acupuncture and chiropractic and meditation. Our model understands that health care is proper nutrition combined with good mental health care and substance use counseling and, last but not least, that it should be accessible to all, regardless of one’s ability to pay. To be able to go from offering all this to 10,000 folks today to 25,000 people at the completion of this campaign is extremely exciting.”

Extinguishing Workplace Burnout

DAP Health Magazine

Extinguishing Workplace Burnout

 

With a novel approach to wellness benefits, DAP Health ensures employees remain in their happy place

 

Words by Victoria Pelletier

 

DAP Health understands that the key to helping individuals navigate through times of crisis is to meet the hurting ones where they are in their personal journeys. This deeply empathetic approach to healing — especially healing rooted among those in the LGBTQ+ community — requires listening, compassion, and a commitment to connecting those seeking healing with a variety of tools that support it. To make all this possible, DAP Health leans on the passion of its employees, individuals who innately understand what it’s like to experience exclusion, as well as emotional and physical pain. 

DAP Health’s leadership cadre, led by CEO David Brinkman, recognizes that health care providers and other related professionals need vigorous health and wellness benefits themselves due to the tremendous stress associated with providing care to others. “Our wellness specialist and all the healers take health and wellness very seriously,” Brinkman notes, a sentiment that underscores the organization’s intent to combat the burnout pervasive in most work settings in the post-pandemic environment. “DAP Health honors all people,” Brinkman maintains, as the organization is “built around respect, admiration, and listening — values that create not only relationships but a community we all want to be a part of.” 

By the Numbers

While burnout is on the rise across demographics, young workers seem especially vulnerable to a trend we might expect to see among those who have been in the workplace for a while. A recent study of 1,000 Gen Z workers conducted by the Mary Christie Institute found that half of respondents had “experienced mental and emotional hardships in the past year.” A closer look at the data showed that 43% of respondents reported anxiety symptoms, while 31% described symptoms consistent with depression. Worst of all? A whopping 53% of the Mary Christie survey respondents reported experiencing significant burnout in the previous year. Without targeted interventions and long-term supports in place, many of those experiencing burnout will join the ranks of the Great Resignation within the next 12 months.

Influence of “Quiet Promotion”

Along with the advance of the Great Resignation, the Quiet Promotion dynamic continues to gain a beachhead in the workplace, leading to greater risk of burnout among those choosing to remain in their jobs. “Quiet Promotion” refers to those tasked with managing more responsibilities in the workplace due to the expansion of employee resignations and absences. 

Human resources guru Matthew Owensby of Aflac notes that employers, as well as employees, feel the pinch of all the turnover, and remain concerned that the personal suffering behind the resignation and promotion trends are here to stay. Owens notes, “A major concern of employee burnout is the impact on their well-being and how it affects engagement and retention.” In fact, an in-house study conducted by Aflac shows that in 2022, “more than half (59%) of American workers are experiencing at least moderate levels of burnout, a notable increase over 2021 (52%) and on par with the levels reported in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Amid his insights on burnout and overall employee health, Owensby notes “employers are looking for new ways to offer benefits that help improve their employees’ mental health balance.” 

For DAP Health, innovation means immediate access to resources and benefits that can address challenges in employee health before they become overwhelming. More about that in a bit. 

Burnout Defined

Burnout is pervasive in the workplace and can sap employee energy and motivation. But what is it, exactly? Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. The phenomenon leaves employees feeling overwhelmed by their work, emotionally drained, and often being unable to meet the demands in their portfolio of responsibility. Unchecked, burnout can spill over into one’s personal life, impacting the quality of relationships, personal health, and the ability to find enjoyment in activities and routines that once offered joy. Perhaps the most vexing aspect of burnout is that it can be slow-moving. The symptoms of burnout may gradually increase over time, until the one impacted is well beyond a place of healthy functioning.

Burnout in Health Care

DAP Health Employee Wellness Specialist Desiree Loredo and People Operations Manager Trish Sisneros understand that people serving in organizations like theirs are especially susceptible to burnout because of all the time invested in patients at various levels of wellness. Coupled with the recent history and lingering impacts of a global pandemic, the daily stress of work in health care can wear down even the most resilient employees. 

Both Loredo and Sisneros agree caregivers seem to be the worst at self-care, a reality that means prevention is not enough. Self-care measures must be continuous, varied, and exciting. One of the assumptions Loredo and Sisneros make in their wellness approach at DAP Health is that it’s okay to be human and not get everything done. 

Inasmuch, Loredo and Sisneros are proponents of mental, physical, and emotional “breathers” for DAP Health staffers, so that these compassionate caregivers will have the stamina and passion to offer ongoing support to those who need care. Further, breathers are just good medicine for everyone. Stepping away from the demands of work from time to time elevates one’s quality of life. 

A Robust Approach to Wellness

For DAP Health employees, the benefits/wellness program continues to cultivate feelings of connection, longing, and value. Along with the typical health, dental, and retirement offerings you might expect from an organization with a large staff, DAP Health also provides a host of wellness perks to employees that underscore ongoing self-care, not just prevention. With the complete support of CEO Brinkman and DAP Health’s board of directors, the benefits/wellness program includes partnerships with local fitness programs, credit unions, and other service providers; access to yoga, massages, and Transcendental Meditation (TM); mobile apps to manage personal wellness options and meditation; provisions for “self-care days” in addition to traditional sick leave; and, among other perks, the ability to use a DAP Health gym. 

Of course, the real strength of DAP Health’s benefits/wellness program is that it is people-focused, not cost-focused. Not too long ago, DAP Health employees participated in an organization-wide survey to measure the impact of burnout and the health of employee/management relationships as related to wellness. Out of this important work, initiatives were put in place that create healthy dialogue among employees and management, while also honoring the importance of employee input in crafting innovative wellness offerings. Employee engagement with Transcendental Meditation is one of DAP Health’s noteworthy innovations.

Meditation for Everyone on the Team

Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, understands the positive impact of meditative practice. “Research shows that a simple meditation practice can reduce stress, prevent stress disorders, and improve cognitive function,” he notes. With more than 50 years of experience teaching TM, Roth sees meditation promoting wellness in a way a traditional medical model cannot. For a DAP Health employee, a 45-minute TM session can potentially lower their body’s level of cortisol, a hormone released as part of the body’s “fight, flight, fear” response to stressful inputs. While pointing out that “stress is destroying workplaces, families, and health,” Roth believes that educating people about the benefits of meditation, and then encouraging them to adopt a meditative practice, will mean better wellness outcomes for many. The data, and the anecdotal evidence offered by DAP Health employees who take advantage of this novel benefit, affirm Roth’s work and assertions about the benefits of meditation. 

Burnout is on the rise. The Great Resignation and Quiet Promotion phenomena are outward, measurable signs of the ways burnout impacts great organizations. Ultimately, however, great workers and the people who love them are the silent sufferers of burnout. Hopefully, novel and robust benefits/wellness programs offered by organizations like DAP Health will turn the tide and bring more joy and passion to the workplace.

A Greener Death

A Greener Death

 

More and more locals are joining the natural burial movement

 

Words by David A. Lee • Photos by Shawn O’Connor

 

With an ever-growing number of people seriously concerned about the current state of the environment, many readily embrace the notion of “going green” in life. They recycle, conserve water, compost, and rideshare, use public transportation, or drive hybrid or electric vehicles. But how many know it’s possible to go green in death?

On its website, the Green Burial Council (GBC) — a organization based in Placerville, California that focuses on alternative burial advocacy and education — defines the term as interment that cares for the dead “with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat.”

“Green burial isn’t necessarily the top option for everybody, and that’s OK,” says GBC Board President Caitlyn Hauke, adding that misconceptions are often what keep people from choosing that path. “Are there going to be grave disturbances from animals? Is there going to be soil contamination from putting bodies [in the ground] without a casket? These are misunderstandings that we need to educate folks on.” 

Indeed. Especially since conventional burials using caskets (made of wood or metal) enclosed inside concrete vaults in a cemetery still account for 35–40% of deaths in the United States today. In the “Disposition Statistics” portion of its website, GBC quotes Mary Woodsen of Cornell University and Greensprings Natural Preserve in Newfield, New York as saying that U.S. burials use approximately “4.3 million gallons embalming fluid (827,060 gallons of which is formaldehyde, methanol, and benzene), 20 million board feet of hardwoods (including rainforest woods), 1.6 million tons of concrete, 17,000 tons of copper and bronze, 64,500 tons of steel, [with] caskets and vaults leaching iron, copper, lead, zinc, and cobalt.”

When one factors in that this age-old custom forces funeral workers to wear personal protection equipment (PPE) to help shield them from toxic and cancer-causing chemicals, it’s obvious there’s nothing ecologically sound about this preference.

Palm Springs’ Wiefels Cremation and Funeral Services Pre-planning Director Kasey Scott offers green burial, along with many other more traditional services, to a wide array of clients. Wiefels owns Joshua Tree Memorial Park in the high desert, which facilitates 100% natural burials. “Which basically means that when you die, there is no embalming, there is no traditional casket, there is no vault,” she says. “Your body is either wrapped in a biodegradable shroud, or a biodegradable casket, and placed directly into the ground. And we hand dig the graves, so it is fully green.”

“Green burial … has the added bonus of being what many cultures have done with their dead for tens of thousands of years,” maintains Caitlin Doughty, a mortician, author, blogger, and influencer whose YouTube web series, “Ask a Mortician,” has almost two million subscribers. The founder of The Order of the Good Death, Doughty is one of the most vocal proponents of reforms to the Western funeral industry. Her trio of books — 2014’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory,” 2017’s “From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death,” and 2019’s “Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death” — are all New York Times best-sellers.

The interest in green burials has grown exponentially in the past 10 years, with more and more cemeteries accommodating the practice opening all the time. According to the website of the nonprofit New Hampshire Funeral Resources, Education & Advocacy, there are currently 386 certified green burial cemeteries in the U.S. and Canada.

Also encouraging: The 2022 Consumer Awareness and Preferences Report of The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) states that “60.5% would be interested in exploring green funeral options because of their potential environmental benefits, cost savings, or for some other reason, up from 55.7% in 2021.”

Scott reports that locally, more and more people are investigating this alternative, and that she firmly believes awareness will continue to grow as curiosity about it mounts. 

For now, traditional cremation is by far still the most popular way of caring for human remains in the U.S. The NFDA claims the 2021 American [fire] cremation rate was 60% (and more than 70% in Canada), and is projected to reach 80% by 2035. Although environmentalists concede cremation is “better” than traditional burials, the process for each body nonetheless uses some 30 gallons of fossil fuel per cremation, releasing 140 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and discharging dangerous amounts of mercury into the air if the deceased had mercury tooth fillings.

The greener alkaline hydrolysis (also known as aquamation, or water cremation) has been used since 1888, when it was developed in England to process animal carcasses. It’s been slowly gaining traction as replacement for casket/vault burial or traditional fire cremation. Available now in more than 50% of U.S. states — including all those on the West Coast, and locally in the Palm Springs area — the practice converts soft tissue into salt, amino acids, and sugars, and produces neither carbon emissions nor fossil fuels. The process destroys all DNA and RNA, and at its conclusion, the family receives remains similar to traditional cremation.

After studying the process of human decomposition, Katrina Spade founded Seattle’s Recompose, a company that composts human beings, a process officially known as natural organic reduction. “Microbes break the body and the plant materials down in about a month, cocooned in woodchips and straw,” Spade explains on the “Let’s Visit the Human Compositing Facility” episode of Doughty’s “Ask a Mortician.”

Adds Doughty: “As the body decays into soil, it changes on a molecular level, and pathogens, pharmaceuticals, and chemotherapy drugs are all neutralized in the process, reduced to well below what the EPA considers safe levels. After the 30 days, about one cubic yard of the nutrient-dense soil comes forth from the vessel. The soil is then allowed to cure before it can be used in gardens, forests, or conservation land.”

Natural organic reduction is now available in Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, and Vermont, with other states soon to come.

Matt O’Neill and Perri Peltz, director-producers of the popular and groundbreaking (pun unintended but unavoidable) HBO documentary “Alternate Endings: Six New Ways to Die in America,” offer myriad other creative ways of dealing with death, some greener than others. They include adding ashes to small concrete “sculptures” that help form artificial aquatic reefs, shooting cremains into space for those who always dreamed of eternity among the stars, and setting a body atop a funeral pyre to be ceremonially incinerated in a celebration of life before family and friends.

Another way to lessen the burden of death on the earth is
organ and/or body donation. DAP Health Manager of Home Care Supportive Services Becky Sandlin, who oversees nurses and social workers who visit patients and clients in their homes, says it’s not uncommon for the topic to come up with those in end-of-life hospice care. “It’s a heartwarming, selfless act to [donate one’s body to science] to help clinicians and
patients alike.” 

Bimonthly magazine MIT Technology Review estimates that, “In the U.S., about 20,000 people or their families donate their bodies to scientific research and education each year. They do it because they want to make their deaths meaningful, or because they’re disenchanted with the traditional death industry.” Unused tissue and remains are cremated and returned to the family, along with information on how the body was purposed to further medical science. 

Since the interest in going green in death shows no sign of slowing down, it’s promising that federal, state, and municipal laws that have historically prevented ecological burial options in the U.S. are continuously being challenged and changed — some after years of effort. As more and more Americans feel the need to leave a smaller footprint on this earth after they
die, green burials will surely prove to be the new interment
of choice.

As far as Scott sees it, the only way for one’s body to be disposed of in precisely the way one wishes is to look ahead. “I understand that people don’t want to talk about dying, or to plan for anything of that nature,” she says. “My job is to educate them as to why pre-planning is important. Then, if they want to move forward, it’s my honor to take care of them.”

I Know Where I’ve Been

I Know Where I’ve Been

 

Even when she was sure she was about to lose everything, beloved desert entertainer Keisha D kept on giving 

 

Words by Kay Kudukis • Photos by Matthew Mitchell

 

Keisha D Mimms has played many roles in her life — daughter, sister, wife, mother, businesswoman, actress, chanteuse — but the one she was unwittingly cast in five years ago might be her most challenging.

More than a decade ago, when Mimms stepped on the stage at McCallum’s 2008 Open Call, she and the Coachella Valley instantly began a fierce love affair. No one else stood a chance. She is a powerhouse singer with a soulful, richly textured voice and a smart, playful stage presence. She doesn’t steal hearts, they’re offered.

“I remember being so impressed and so awestruck when she performed,” says local entertainer Brian Wanzek, perhaps better known by his drag queen alter ego Bella da Ball. “I sent — I think it was an email — to the person involved with the Open Call and asked, ‘Is it possible that you could either give her my number or you could give me her number?’ I just wanted to chat and talk about opportunities to work with this fabulous, talented superstar.” 

Not only was Wanzek playing multiple clubs around town with his drag extravaganza, Delicious Divas, he was involved with multiple charities. Mimms was interested in giving back too, and a beautiful friendship and symbiotic working relationship coalesced. She sang for LGBTQ+ charities, including Palm Springs Pride, the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert, The L-Fund, and many more. 

Billed as Keisha D Sings, she’s got a big voice, which came in handy in choir, and on the mission-based tours where her pastor father preached, and her mother and she sang. Anyone who’s heard her belt out gospel knows she can get an “Amen!” out of a diehard heathen.

Mimms attended Christian high school but, “I started singing in nightclubs when I was 16, I was sneaking in,” she says, chuckling at her cheekiness. “We were just sitting in with the band. [I sang] ‘Summertime,’ ‘Come Rain or Come Shine.’ Anything Ella Fitzgerald.” 

She received a vocal scholarship to Azusa Pacific, an evangelical Christian university where she did musical theater and opera. In fact, her favorite musical memory is not jazz, gospel, or Motormouth Mabel in “Hairspray.” It’s the titular character in Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly.” “That was just the highlight because I nailed it,” she says without a drop of ego. “This is something I never thought I could do.”

She moved to Palm Springs from Riverside for a position with a mortgage firm, but Wanzek wasn’t the only one who’d seen her perform at Open Call. Mimms was immediately in demand: The Purple Room, Vicky’s of Santa Fe, PS Underground, some clubs that have come and gone. But one thing remains the same. Her philanthropy. 

“She’s been working with me and the Club probably for 12 years,” says Jan Darlington of the Palm Springs Woman’s Club. “She’s performed at benefits for us many, many times.” The charitable organization has been raising money for scholarships for Palm Springs High School students for the past 85 years. 

Five years ago, Mimms began an unplanned journey: she started losing weight. Quite suddenly, she was half of her former self. She was performing, but her appearance was alarmingly delicate. Fans asked, “Is Keisha OK?” What they didn’t know — but what her best friends David Bader and Michael Shiplett knew — was that Mimms was very much not OK. The once energetic performer could barely drag herself out of bed. She was in constant, excruciating pain, and had recently stayed 14 days in the hospital with neither relief nor answers. 

“When I got out, [Bader and Shiplett] took me back to my house,” she softly recalls, her voice catching. “They were with me on the phone in the middle of the night. I would be just crying in so much pain. It’d be 11:30 at night, they’d knock on the door, and then put me in the hot shower — that helped. I couldn’t shower alone.”

Bader and Shiplett suggested she try DAP Health, but Mimms demurred. She wasn’t unfamiliar with the great work the nonprofit was known for — she had donated her time as a performer for fundraising events, and for silent auctions for private concerts. It was a demographics issue. 

“I’m not a guy and I’m not gay. And I don’t have AIDS. I know it’s not AIDS. We already ruled that out,” Mimms says.

Like countless others, Mimms misconstrued the breadth of DAP Health’s services. Many aren’t aware DAP Health is also a Medi-Cal and Medicare provider through Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP), the largest not-for-profit Medi-Cal and Medicare health plan in the Inland Empire, and one of the fastest-growing health plans in the nation. Those who have fallen on unfortunate times can apply and choose from DAP Health’s exhaustive menu. The organization has programs and employees that cover virtually everything, including mental health and chiropractic care. 

Bader and Shiplett called DAP Health and explained Mimms’ condition. “Within two hours: ‘Hello. I’m from DAP. I’m an intake nurse and we want to schedule you for an appointment for tomorrow,’” Mimms recalls. When she arrived, Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Morris was waiting. 

“The first thing I said was, ‘Just help me die. That’s all I’m asking you to do. I don’t need your medicine. I need you to help me die. Please.’” There is no drama in Mimms’ voice, but the memory of the moment is absolutely palpable. 

“He took my hand and said, ‘I know who you are. I know what you do in this community. And if there’s one thing I’m not going to do, it’s help you die. You will live under my watch. We’re gonna figure out what it takes to help you live.’” 

If the horrors of the AIDS epidemic taught anyone anything, it’s that it takes a village. Morris secured an appointment for Mimms at the world-famous Loma Linda University Medical Center. After some rigorous testing and diagnostics, Mimms had a diagnosis: systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease. From the CDC’s website: “The immune system attacks its own tissues, causing widespread inflammation and tissue damage in the affected organs. It can affect the joints, skin, brain, lungs, kidneys, and blood vessels. There is no cure for lupus, but medical interventions and lifestyle changes can help control it.”

imms’ illness spurred her to develop a scholarship fund with Palm Springs Unified School District. That journey began years ago when her daughter took dance classes at Palm Springs High School. Her young teacher was having a tough time with some students. Mimms had credentials, and volunteered to help. “So, I started working with these kids,” she says. Not just her daughter’s dance class, but all the classes. “Then it went to working with the orchestra, and teaching vocals to the jazz kids. So, I was singing with the kids, dancing with the kids, and talking to the kids. They called me Mama K. I couldn’t get to the counter [without], ‘Mama K, Mama K’ and hugs, hugs, hugs.” 

Budgets were tight for some families. Instruments, uniforms, and bus tickets for events were a low priority. So, Mama K provided. “As a kid, I had everything. If I was in cheer, I got a cheer outfit: the shoes, the jacket, the letter. I’m seeing these kids trying to get to college. That’s why I started the Keisha D Music Scholarship. Every year, seniors can apply for funds. I have a friend, he’s a philanthropist as well. He said, ‘I’ll match dollar for dollar up to $35,000 every year, but you gotta raise it.’ Every year since, I’ve raised … maybe a little less than $30K. He matched it.” 

In 2020, Mimms received a star on the Walk of the Stars Palm Springs and recalls the shock at seeing pictures of herself at the unveiling. “I looked like Skeletor,” she says, grimacing.

Today, Mimms’ all-around care is monitored by Dr. Morris and his handpicked Keisha D team. “They’re keeping me comfortable,” she says, “and they’re keeping me well. They’re doing a fabulous job.” 

Even though the last five years have been challenging, Mimms has still supported DAP Health by participating in its “Hope Begins with Health Care” televised special and by serving as a storyteller at the weekly IMPACT Hour tours (a by-invitation-only backstage visit of the facilities for prospective donors; please see separate story on page 78). 

With her new regimen, Mimms is looking and feeling much better. Her pain is regulated so well that she recently did a show with her band, Hearts of Soul, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center (PSCC). Part of a series celebrating Black female singers, the first featured Chaka Khan and Tina Turner songs. “We had dancers and everything,” says Mimms. “I can’t believe I was able to do that.” She also has Soulful Sundays at PSCC; Wednesdays at Mr. Lyons; Thursdays, Roost in Cathedral City; and Fridays at the kitschy PS Air Bar. She stays busy.

Mimms sings a song from “Hairspray” that is Wanzek’s favorite. Sung by Motormouth Mabel, it’s the title of this article, and seems to encapsulate Mimms — past and present. In fact, it seems to speak to her core being. Here’s Mabel talking: “What do we do when we see something wrong? We fix it. And I’m here to tell you, I’m going to keep on trying!” And then, singing: “There’s a struggle that we have yet to win. And there’s pride in my heart, ’cause I know where I’m going, and I know where I’ve been.”

Amen, Mabel. Amen!

Pull quote: “I know who you are. I know what you do in this community. And if there’s one thing I’m not going to do, “I know who you are. I know what you do in this community. And if there’s one thing I’m not going to do, it’s help you die. We’re gonna figure out what it takes to help you live.”

Pull quote: “As a kid, I had everything. If I was in cheer, I got a cheer outfit: the shoes, the jacket, the letter. I’m seeing these kids trying to get to college. That’s why I started the Keisha D Music Scholarship.”

Pull quote: “There’s pride in my heart, ’cause I know where I’m going, and I know where

A Community United Against mpox

A Community United Against mpox

Lessons learned from the AIDS epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic fostered a swift, successful end to the local 2022 outbreak

Words by Trey Burnette • Photo by Zach Ivey

 

Larry Kramer said, “You don’t get anything unless you fight for it, united and with visible numbers.” It was the lesson he learned during the AIDS epidemic — one he wanted the LQBTQ+ community to learn. It was a lesson the professionals at DAP Health understood when the mpox outbreak started in May 2022. 

The disease is caused by the mpox virus, similar to the variola virus (smallpox) and related viruses. It often causes a painful rash of blisters on the hands, feet, chest, face, and mouth — as well as near the anus, and penis and testicles, or labia and vagina —before scabbing and healing. It was a rare ailment until 2022, with the CDC reporting only two cases in the United States in 2021. 

Then, on May 7, 2022, the United Kingdom reported its first incidence. On May 17, the first U.S. case was confirmed in Boston by the Massachusetts Department of Health. On May 23, a Sacramento patient was the earliest to be verified in California, and DAP Health saw its first local occurrence on July 8. 

Fortunately, DAP Health was ready. The agency had formalized a task force devoted to mpox by the end of May in view of a potential outbreak hitting the Coachella Valley. 

“We wanted to be proactive on where the clinical services would best be served, knowing we had to maintain operations in all other clinics,” says DAP Health Director of Community Health and Sexual Wellness C.J. Tobe.

The nonprofit already had a waiting list for primary care, and its sexual health clinic was seeing increased numbers of patients. Tobe and his team started by getting emergency authorization from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to use DAP Health’s “library” meeting room at the main campus in Palm Springs as clinic space. Also, taking cues from their recent experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, the powers that be knew they’d overburdened an already stressed staff, so they made arrangements for temporary workers to support the mpox response.

At that point, the vast majority of cases reported were in men who have sex with men. DAP Health needed to alert the community. It partnered with county and state health departments, attending weekly town halls. The agency’s mpox response team had triweekly internal meetings. Printed mpox fact and resource material was distributed to more than 80 businesses across the Coachella Valley, and information was also disseminated via local print, broadcast, and internet media outlets. Educational ads were placed on social apps like Scruff, Grindr, and Rent Men. Micro-messaging was done on Facebook and Instagram Live sessions. DAP Health even created a landing page dedicated to mpox on
its website. 

Furthermore, knowing that health crises historically impact people of color most, DAP Health collaborated with Brothers of the Desert for targeted messaging. 

Because mpox had been almost dormant in this country, vaccines were in short supply. Once JYNNEOS — a two-dose vaccine whose shots are administered 30 days apart — became available, its insufficient supply was quickly gobbled up. Los Angeles and other large cities received it first, directly from the federal government, while other federal allocations went to the states to disperse. The CDPH then distributed inoculations to counties pursuant to total population and actual mpox and syphilis case numbers, not infection rates per capita.

Unfortunately, this formula left Riverside County and DAP Health with just a handful of vaccines. What placed Palm Springs — a popular LGBTQ+ tourist destination where people often partake in sexual activity — at a disadvantage is that it was not where transmission occurred that was considered, but the location where the case was reported.

By July 9, DAP Health had received its first batch of 169 vials of JYNNEOS from Riverside University Health Systems (RUHS) and started vaccinating the most high-risk: people who were symptomatic for mpox and those who’d been exposed to a person who tested positive. Soon, guidelines were expanded to include sex workers, people who participated in group sex, and those who’d recently had an STI. 

DAP Health continued its outreach by using social media influencers popular in the queer community. Well-known adult film performer Trenton Ducati reached out to local sex workers to raise awareness about mpox, encouraging them to receive the shots available to them. He also recorded PSAs that spoke directly to those most at risk. 

The vaccines ultimately became (and still are) available to everyone. In addition to protecting people via its sexual wellness clinics in Palm Springs and Indio, DAP Health, in partnership RUHS, was able to set up more than 10 pop-up clinics, including some at sex-themed businesses such as Palm Springs’ All Worlds Resort and Cathedral City’s CCBC Resort Hotel. To date, DAP Health has vaccinated more than 6,000 people. 

As of January 4, 2023, reported mpox cases in the U.S. were 29,913, and 84,417 globally. This country has had a total of 20 deaths from mpox. DAP Health confirmed 109 positive cases after PCR-testing 245 people, and 16 mpox- positive patients were treated with TPOXX (tecovirimat).

Unfortunately, the ramifications of mpox weren’t limited to physical complications. Many people suffered mental, social, and financial costs from the outbreak. Tobe says he spent countless hours after work speaking with many long-term HIV survivors upset that they were initially ineligible for vaccines. The situation seemed too close to the initial federal and social response to the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, triggering numerous painful memories. Furthermore, some patients suffered financially or were fired for missing too much work while recovering. Some patients who had informal rental arrangements lost their homes. 

To help remedy these problems, DAP Health utilized its work-reentry program to help patients find new employment. The agency also partnered with the Musicland Hotel to house people until they found permanent residences. Desert Healthcare District funded the hotel cost, along with food delivery and TracFones. Mental health services were available at DAP Health for those in need of counseling. 

Tobe credits the relatively swift, successful end of the local outbreak to DAP Health’s proactive, holistic approach, at the forefront of which was an eagerness to join forces with community, county, state, and federal entities.

Behavioral Health Resources for the Lake …

Behavioral Health Resources for the Lake Arrowhead and Surrounding Mountain LGBTQ+ Community

At DAP Health, we recognize the profound impact trauma can have on individuals. Whether it’s the aftermath of a hate crime, perceived threats, or other distressing experiences, we understand that the effects of such events can be long-lasting.

It’s crucial to remember that healing begins with sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone who understands and cares. Even in a virtual setting, DAP Health’s dedicated professionals are here to support you every step of the way and provide a safe and empathetic space for you to process, heal, and reclaim your mental and emotional well-being.

We will continue to reach out to partner organizations to update this list of mental health resources that can be accessed in person or virtually. If you are a partner organization that can support the community, please use the form below to submit your organization’s information, and a DAP Health team member will contact you to validate your information before adding it to this list.

Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ+ (lakearrowheadlgbtq.org)

From the nonprofit’s website, its mission: We will create an all-inclusive, safe community for everyone. Our goal is to raise funds to create a LGBTQ+ Center for resources, recreation, learning, counseling, and health care. Our building will be available to anyone who needs it.

Furthermore: Lauri Carleton was not only a beloved mother, wife, and friend but a founding member of our Mountain Provisions Co-op community and a fierce advocate for love, equality, and human rights. Her tragic death has left a void in our hearts, but her vision for a more caring, inclusive, and engaged community lives on.

Lauri’s vision for a better world: Lauri was a pillar in our community, an unwavering champion of values that sought to break down barriers and build bridges. Her dedication to equality and her courage in flying the LGBTQ+ flag exemplify her commitment to creating a world where love knows no boundaries. The Lauri Carleton Memorial Fund aims to keep her spirit alive, by supporting local and inclusive community-building initiatives that reflect these same values.

SAC Health (sachealth.org)

A dedicated Lake Arrowhead support line was established at 909.219.6880 on 9.14.23 and will be available Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., for as long as needed. After-hours, the line accepts messages. Behavioral health offerings include individual in-person counseling for adults and youth (IEHP, Molina, Risk Management, Medicare, Medical). Virtual options are available (except for Medicare). Group counseling is available, with coverage requirements. Appointments for one-on-one counseling are available at the end of the month. Group sessions will be held virtually once a roster is developed.

DAP Health (daphealth.org)

DAP Health’s department of behavioral health provides services focusing on treating mental health and substance use with individual therapy or medication management, as necessary, and specializes in serving the LGBTQ+ community. Appointments are in person or virtual via phone, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Call 760.992.0450 to schedule.

 

Queer Works Therapy (queerworks.org/freetherapy)

Appointments can be requested online, with intake within 48 hours and the first appointment within a week. Behavioral health services include LGBTQ+ affirmative therapy (virtual sessions open to all California residents, with fees based on income level), LGBTQ+ trauma-informed therapy (specializing in care for victims of hate crimes or perceived threats), trans-affirmative therapy (focused on transgender, gender-diverse, and intersex care).

The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert (thecentercv.org)

Affirmative, virtual, low-cost therapy is available to all California residents. For more information, or to be added to the waitlist, call 760.416.7790, Ext. 3.

 

Photo courtesy of Mountain Provisions Cooperative, Lake Arrowhead.

DAP Health and Borrego Health Become One …

DAP Health and Borrego Health Become One Integrated Health Care System

The acquisition’s goal is to protect and expand local access to culturally competent care.

DAP Health is happy to announce that its acquisition of Borrego Health’s assets has been approved by both the Bankruptcy Court and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The two health care systems will now operate as one integrated system, with some 850 employees serving 100,000 patients of all ages, genders, ethnicities, orientations, and socioeconomic status at a total of 25 Southern California clinics located within 240 rural and urban zip codes from the Salton Sea to San Diego.

Pre-acquisition, DAP Health’s programs and services included primary care, infectious diseases, gender-affirming care, LGBTQ+ care, mental health, dentistry, harm reduction, recovery services, affordable housing, and social services. The Borrego Health disciplines now under DAP Health’s vast umbrella include family medicine, women’s health (including OB-GYN), pediatrics, veterans’ health, geriatrics, urgent care, and pharmacy services.

“It’s an honor to unite Borrego Health and DAP Health’s missions, as well as our region’s most exceptional, dedicated, and passionate health care professionals,” says DAP Health CEO David Brinkman. “Together, we will build a brighter future where every individual — regardless of who or where they are — has equal opportunity to live a healthy and fulfilling life.

“We will achieve this by replicating our time-tested, holistic, patient-centered care model, which addresses all applicable social determinants of health (SDOH) negatively affecting the patient population at each of our clinics. By addressing these SDOH — whether they pertain to language and literacy, housing, nutrition, transportation, education, employment and income, addiction, violence, and/or racism and other discrimination — we remove barriers to care, increase our patients’ quality and length of life, and create true health equity.”

Of note:

  • Every DAP Health and Borrego Health location will remain open, retaining its original name, branding, and signage for the time being.
  • All Borrego Health employees have been offered employment at DAP Health, and 99% have accepted to join the combined entity.
  • Any patient at DAP Health or Borrego Health can now make appointments at any of our locations in this expanded system.
  • FAQs for patients can be found here.
  • Alliance members (and fellow FQHCs) Innercare and Neighborhood Healthcare — with regional and cultural expertise in Riverside and San Diego Counties, respectively — will offer guidance, support, and community connections on an as-needed basis.

The Next 12 Months

Over the next 12 months, DAP Health’s fortified executive leadership team — consisting of individuals from both organizations — will analyze all SDOH negatively impacting the varied patient populations served by our larger combined entity. It will actively engage fellow community organizations, government agencies, educational institutions, and businesses to improve health outcomes for all, whether that be by adding programs and services or improving physical facilities. By combining a plethora of strengths, DAP Health will achieve new levels of excellence in delivering comprehensive, accessible, and culturally sensitive care to its diverse patient populations.

DAP Health Executive Team Members

David Brinkman, Chief Executive Officer

David joined DAP Health in 2006. He has led the organization through a period of unprecedented expansion, increasing the number of patients and volunteers, diversity and volume of services, number of staff, and size of the budget by 1000%. Under his leadership, DAP Health established a dental clinic, a permanent supportive housing complex, a community center, a department of community health, two sexual wellness clinics, and a vocational program. During this period, DAP Health was awarded full Federally Qualified Health Center status. David has served the nonprofit community for over 25 years. He previously worked as executive director of a nonprofit resource center for homeless youth and as development director for a nonprofit employment center for developmentally disabled adults. David earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology from Lewis & Clark College and completed his MBA with emphasis in ethical business management at Pepperdine University.

Judy Stith, Chief Administrative Officer

Judy will be stepping up from her current role as DAP Health’s chief financial officer to serve as the chief administrative officer for our combined organization. Judy was hired in February 2019, coming to DAP Health with extensive experience, including spending the last two years as the CFO for Horizon Health and Wellness, an FQHC in Arizona. Her position as controller at Goodwill Industries, combined with her health center tenure, makes her well-suited to lead DAP Health’s department of finance, where we benefit from diverse income streams such as our health center, fundraising (including grants), and a chain of resale stores. As CFO, Judy implemented and monitored systems of internal control for accounting functions to ensure the safeguarding of our assets and resources. She also oversaw the financial component of the 340B program. Judy earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Wright State University. She maintains memberships in the Arizona Society of CPAs and the California Society of CPAs. 

Corina Velasquez, Chief Operating Officer

Corina Velasquez, who first joined Borrego Health in 2007, has a history of success in health care operations. Corina moves into her role at DAP Health after serving as the chief operating officer and executive vice president of Borrego Health, where she has managed patient access and process improvements, overseen multiple departments, and led clinic operations throughout California. Prior to advancing to COO and executive vice president at Borrego Health, Corina served as the chief operating officer for Riverside County, where she managed medical clinics while introducing policies, procedures, and best practices in line with the CEO’s agenda. Corina holds a bachelor’s in business administration and is a Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. She has also completed executive leadership programs with the UCLA Anderson School of Management and the Clinic Leadership Institute.

Dr. David Morris, Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Morris joined DAP Health in January 2016, bringing over 30 years of outpatient clinical and hospital experience. He is board-certified in family medicine and credentialed with the American Academy of HIV Medicine. In his role as chief medical officer, Dr. Morris serves as the lead clinician in charge of all aspects of medical patient care services, including monitoring clinical quality improvement, developing clinical protocols, and supervising all medical providers. During the 16 years prior to joining DAP Health, he served as medical director and attending physician at Atlanta’s Pride Medical, Inc., an agency specializing in LGBTQ+ health and HIV specialty medical care. He previously served for over a decade as medical director and staff physician at the FQHC center at Georgia Highlands Medical Services, where the majority of the 8,000+ patient population is made up of very low-income individuals. Dr. Morris earned his Doctor of Medicine at Atlanta’s Emory University in 1984. 

Brande Orr, Chief Growth and Strategy Officer

Brande will soon rejoin DAP Health after previously serving as director of grants and then director of strategic initiatives from 2010-2019. She brings more than 25 years of experience serving nonprofit organizations in the health, equity, education, social justice, and human service sectors. Through collaboration with a wide variety of stakeholders, she has led strategic planning, fundraising, outreach, and quality improvement initiatives for organizations seeking to improve community well-being. Brande earned her MBA with emphasis in ethical business management at Pepperdine University. In her position as chief growth and strategy officer, she will lead the brand marketing and development departments at DAP Health.

Dana Erwin, Chief Compliance Officer

Dana joined Borrego Health in November 2021 as an interim chief compliance officer, and accepted the position of chief compliance officer in March 2022. As part of Borrego Health’s executive leadership team, Dana has assisted in developing an approachable and trustworthy quality and compliance team, and has worked with departmental leaders to support, educate, and build a collaborative quality and compliance department. Dana has an extensive health care background, beginning her career as a lead nurse in neurosurgery, and transitioning to labor and delivery for more than a decade. This foundational health care experience eventually led to a career in quality/risk and compliance in hospitals, ambulatory care, and FQHCs. Dana is certified in health care risk management and has a master’s in nursing leadership.

Sheri Saenz, Chief People and Places Officer

Sheri joined DAP Health in 1998. After serving as human resources assistant, human resources administrator, and director of human resources, she was promoted to her current role in November 2013. Sheri ensures compliance with state, local, and federal employment laws; advises on employment issues, including emergency preparedness, professional development, and cultural competency; oversees agency reception, facilities, and security; and manages employee benefit programs and agency insurance policies. Sheri earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from California State University San Bernardino, and an associate degree in business administration and an accounting certificate from the College of the Desert, Palm Desert. To enhance her education and expertise, Sheri has certifications in SHRM (senior certified professional) and HRCI (senior professional in human resources). She is an active member of the Society for Human Resources Management, Professionals in Human Resources Association, the Crisis Prevention Institute, and the National Notary Association.