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WELCOMING WELLNESS AT PALM SPRINGS PRIDE

WELCOMING WELLNESS AT PALM SPRINGS PRIDE 

Words by Ellen Bluestein 

DAP Health had an elevated presence at this year’s Pride weekend. Held November 3-5, 2022, attendees at the annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community were introduced to the extensive programs and services offered by the organization and its partners. In fact, DAP Health’s entire participation in Pride was predicated on showcasing the breadth of its healthcare services to the public. “DAP Health is opening the aperture a little bit wider to the community's understanding that DAP Health is healthcare,” said Steven Henke, DAP Health director of brand marketing. 

“The weekend was a huge success,” Henke continued. “This was the first time DAP Health created a comprehensive pavilion space that invited the community into wellness.” The pavilion offered free programs throughout the weekend that covered a wide range of topics, from yoga and speed friending to sexual wellness and recovery, incorporating panel discussions and conversations with partner organizations including Planned Parenthood, Queer Works, Brothers of the Desert, and the L-Fund.   

The pavilion was a community effort. “We couldn't have done it without the people who volunteered to be on the panels and lead yoga and to do all those things,” said Henke. “It was remarkable. We had an opportunity to have a lot of meaningful conversations that taught us some important truths during Pride, and it speaks volumes about the talent and the commitment of the DAP Health employees who were willing to donate their weekend and the weeks leading up to the event to create this beautiful expression of Pride.” 

In addition, DAP Health’s community health team distributed over 800 life-saving fentanyl testing strips, 17 doses of Narcan (the nasal inhalant that reverses opioid overdoses), and 45 HIV self-test kits. The mobile clinic conducted 22 STI tests, while community partner Riverside County Department of Public Health administered 500 MPX and 200 flu vaccinations.  

But healthcare extends far beyond the medical, as evidenced by both the signs the DAP Health team carried in the signature parade and the programming at the pavilion. “We are advocating for equitable access to healthcare, including mental health, recovery, and harm reduction,” said Henke. “We were really inviting people to understand that healthcare at DAP Health is so much more than they thought.” 

“There are so many people who still think we only provide one service,” continued Henke. “I think the beautiful thing about being at Pride — having the pavilion, and then having our team marching down Palm Canyon, holding those signs — is that we were able to show the community what we mean when we say that DAP Health is an advocacy-based healthcare organization, what we mean when we say we are fighting for healthcare equity for the LGBTQ+ community, what we mean when we say we're expanding access so that more people can experience wellness.” 

U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Se …

U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra Visits DAP Health’s Palm Springs Headquarters 

October 28, 2022

As part of his tour of Southern California — and upon the invitation of Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz — U.S. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra (the first Latino to hold the office) visited the Palm Springs headquarters of DAP Health on the morning of Friday, October 28, 2022. 

The tour encompassed both the Annette Bloch CARE Building and the Barbara Keller LOVE Building, which together house not only administration offices but primary care and dental clinics, the Sexual Wellness Clinic, and the Marc Byrd Behavioral Health Clinic. 

Following the informal walk-through, DAP Health CEO David Brinkman moderated a roundtable discussion in the non-profit’s board room, which focused on the top five health equity priorities shared by HHS and DAP, all of which are of urgent concern to the local LGBTQ+ community: ending the pandemic, reducing health care costs, expanding access to care, tackling health disparities, and strengthening behavioral health. 

Speaking specifically to barriers that prevent community members from accessing health care, stakeholders were unanimous in highlighting such issues as a widely diverse population (from newly arrived retirees from across the country to migrant farm workers living in Mexico), the lack of efficient public transportation (a unique hindrance in such a large geographical area that extends from Palm Springs to the Eastern Coachella Valley cities of Indio, Thermal, Oasis, Mecca, and North Shore), our region’s higher prevalence of HIV and MPX, and the challenges of building relationships with people who are still unaware of DAP Health and the wide array of wraparound services it offers. 

In thanking Secretary Becerra for accepting his invitation, Congressman Dr. Ruiz voiced his appreciation for the Secretary showing this community that it mattered not only to him and his department, but to the president of the United States, and to his administration. 

“It was an honor to host Secretary Becerra here in the 36th District to discuss mental health care services in our communities,” he said. “Our region faces a physician shortage crisis, and we have an increased need for mental health care services, especially after the pandemic. That is why today, I’m so glad we were able to bring local stakeholders together to collaborate with the county and local clinics like DAP Health for a discussion on how we can bring home necessary federal resources to expand access to care in our region.” 

“All of us at DAP Health are deeply indebted to Congressman Dr. Ruiz for extending this invitation — and to Secretary Becerra for immediately accepting it,” said Brinkman. “We are obviously very proud of our facilities and of our efforts and successes, both past and present.” 

Secretary Becerra expressed how impressed he was with DAP Health — officials of which have travelled to the White House and to Africa — and the fact that the organization treats its patients not just as patients, but as family members. “What DAP Health is doing is knocking people’s socks off,” he said, adding, “I want in. I want to help. If I have money, I’m gonna send it your way.” 

The Honorable Lisa Middleton — who as mayor of Palm Springs is the first openly transgender person to serve in that civic role in California — spoke of the dangerous politicization of trans health care and the need to protect medical professionals who care for members of that community. “This administration is the best we’ve ever had,” she commented, to which Becerra replied, “We don’t shy away from this issue.” 

Innercare Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jonathan Slone, in referring explicitly to behavioral health, said our current number of available professionals locally is inadequate to deal with present demand, and that said demand is just “the tip of the iceberg.”  

Palm Springs City Council member Christy Holstege not only spoke to the contradiction inherent in Palm Springs — its world-renowned wealth and glamor mask some of the most extreme poverty in the nation — but commended DAP Health for so generously sharing the expertise it has earned in dealing with the HIV epidemic for the last 40 years, and for stepping up on behalf of the entire community as a powerful force against both COVID-19 and MPX.” 

Brinkman was not only very happy with how the visit and subsequent dialogue unfolded but stressed how important it was for DAP Health to invite others to the table. “Community partners and city and federal leaders spoke passionately about our region’s unmet mental health needs,” he said. “What’s working? Building mental health safety nets through creative collaborations that address housing, substance use, employment, healthcare, and mental health. When we join forces and approach care in a diverse manner, our effectiveness increases. It’s through diversity that our community heals and evolves. Of the utmost importance is for none of us to ever forget that we’re all in this together. If our joint advocacy is to result in true health equity for all, we must work alongside one another, from the grassroots all the way to the national level. 

ATTENDEES 

 

From WH/USG 

From DAP Health 

Invited Guests 

Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 

 

Jeffrey Reynoso, HHS Regional Director, Region IX 

 

Dr. Raul Ruiz, Congressman (D-CA-36)  

 

CDR Michelle Sandoval-Rosario, Region IX PACE Program Director, OASH  

David Brinkman, CEO 

 

CJ Tobe, Director of Community Health and Sexual Wellness Services 

 

Patrick Jordan, Board Chair 

 

Scott Nevins, Board Member 

 

The Honorable Lisa Middleton, Mayor of the City of Palm Springs 

 

Christy Holstege, Palm Springs City Council Member 

 

Dr. Jonathan Slone, Senior VP and Chief Medical Officer of Innercare 

  

Kim Saruwatari, Director of Public Health, Riverside University Health System  

 

Dr. Christopher G. Fichtner, 

Director of Public Health and  

Interim Chair of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, UC Riverside 

A Brief Timeline of LGBTQ+ History and S …

A Brief Timeline of LGBTQ+ History and Six Local Trailblazers, Past and Present  

Words By Ellen Bluestein 

LGBTQ+ history has been filled with great moments of victory along with difficult setbacks.  And while the Stonewall Riots in 1969 are generally regarded as the birth of the modern-day LGBTQ+ movement, there were those who were laying the foundation long before.  The Society for Human Rights, the first documented gay rights organization, was founded in 1924 followed by the formation of the Mattachine Society and the lesbian right organization, Daughters of Bilitis, in 1950 and 1955, respectively. 

From the hanging of gay men and women in the 1600s to the beating death of Matthew Shepard in 1998, LGBTQ+ history sadly involves persecution, violence, and unrelenting bigotry. In 1953, an executive order by President Eisenhower banned homosexuals from working for the federal government calling them a security risk. The American Psychiatric Association deemed homosexuality a sociopathic personality disturbance in its diagnostic manual; a designation that was not removed until 1973.  

In politics, however, great strides have been made. Illinois became the first state to decriminalize homosexuality in 1961, while in 1982, Wisconsin became the first state to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. Massachusetts was the first state to recognize same-sex marriage in 2004 followed by federal recognition in all 50 states in 2015. In 1974 Kathy Kozachenko became the first openly gay LGBTQ+ American elected to public office followed by Elaine Noble in 1975 and Harvey Milk in 1978. Most recently, Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay Cabinet member, was confirmed by the senate as Secretary of Transportation. 

The AIDS crisis that began in the 1980s was a watershed moment in LGBTQ+ history. Referred to as the “gay plague,” the lack of response from the Reagan administration mobilized gay rights activists and organizations across the country and was the catalyst for establishing Desert AIDS Project (now DAP Health.) However, by the time President Reagan publicly acknowledged the disease, four years after it was first identified and countless lives later, it was already a pandemic.   

It was President Obama who posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor and who signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act into law. Under his administration, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” laws were repealed ending the ban on openly gay men and women from serving in the military. 

While progress towards equality has been made nationwide, there’s still more to be done. In honor of LGBTQ+ History Month, DAP Health recognizes six local trailblazers, past and present, who have advanced the political, charitable, cultural, and social landscape of the Coachella Valley. 

Steve Chase 

Famed Rancho Mirage interior designer Steve Chase was instrumental in establishing Desert AIDS Project (now DAP Health) in response to the AIDS crisis in the early 80s.  He served as a volunteer, donor, and board member with the fledgling organization that has since become a leader in HIV/AIDS care.  The organization held its first fundraiser, The Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, named in his honor, in 1994, a year after his death from AIDS-related complications. Today, “The Chase,” as it’s now known, is one of the valley’s most esteemed events, raising millions of dollars for direct client services at DAP Health.  

Gail Christian & Lucy DeBardelaben 

Founders of the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz and Blues Festival and Association, Christian and DeBardelaben have been instrumental in supporting female jazz and blues musicians who traditionally struggle for recognition and employment. Together the women have received numerous awards including the 2013 Spirit Award, Palm Springs Pride, the 2016 Community Service Award, L-Fund Palm Springs, the 2018 Community Service Award, Palm Springs Human Rights Commission, and the 2019 Harvey Milk Leadership Award. By creating opportunities for women musicians, Christian and DeBardelaben, are ensuring that female artists are recognized for their contributions to their genres, compensated fairly, and treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. 

Christine Jorgensen 

1950’s actress Christine Jorgensen was the first person in the United States known for having sex reassignment surgery.  After serving in World War II, Jorgensen went to Denmark where she began her transition and returned an instant celebrity. In 1976, Jorgensen, who had written a book on her experience and had become a vocal advocate of transgender rights, was invited to speak at the Palm Desert Women’s Club. Jorgensen, who died in 1989, once said, “The problem must not lie in sleeping pills and suicides that look like accidents, or in jail sentences, but rather in life and the freedom to live it.” 

Maggie Raible 

Maggie Raible is the current board chair of the L-Fund, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that provides emergency financial assistance to Coachella Valley cis and trans lesbians.  Founded by lesbians for lesbians and the only organization of its kind in the country, the L-Fund promises its donors that all funding stays in the community. With Raible’s guidance, the L-Fund is expanding its areas of service and looking to franchise the charity nationwide.  Receiving assistance is a simple process that happens quickly. “In just a few hours, somebody can have that relief,” Raible said. “And just like that, the gorilla on their shoulders has been lifted off by a whole community.” 

George Zander 

A longtime political activist, Zander was indefatigable when it came to advancing gay rights in Palm Springs. He was a field organizer for the statewide LGBTQ+ rights group Equality California and advocated for marriage equality, safety for LGBTQ+ students and healthcare.  In addition to his work for the LGBTQ+ community, Zander, who was a past chair of the Desert Stonewall Democrats, was also passionate about helping the homeless and undocumented residents in the Coachella Valley. Zander died in 2015, six weeks after he and his husband Chris were brutally attacked in what was later ruled a hate crime. “His passion and strength have paved the road for many of us to follow, and build from,” Chris Zander said. 

OCTOBER IS LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH

OCTOBER IS LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH 

Words by Ellen Bluestein 

 

October 1st marks the start of LGBTQ+ History Month across the country. Founded in 1994 by Missouri high school history teacher Rodney Wilson, LGBTQ+ History Month celebrates the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community as well as the history of gay rights in America and honors those who are role models in the movement.  Established in conjunction with Coming Out Day (October 11), the observance builds community, champions LGBTQ+ causes, and makes a civil rights statement about the important contributions the LGBTQ+ community has made in ameliorating human rights. 

 

According to the Equality Forum, the non-profit organization whose mission is to advance LGBTQ+ civil rights nationally and internationally, the LGBTQ+ community is the only community worldwide that is not taught its history at home, in public schools, or in religious institutions.  

 

In Palm Springs, LGBTQ+ History Month is not as widely observed as in other cities around the country as it precedes Pride Weekend. “Unfortunately, here in Palm Springs, we don't do a lot because our Pride is the first weekend of November so we're kind of overwhelmed with getting ready for that,” said David Gray, co-founder of the LGBTQ+ History & Archives of the Desert. “But there are organizations who do some [LGBTQ+ History Month programming], if they're not terribly involved in Pride.” 

 

That doesn’t make LGBTQ+ History Month any less meaningful. “It’s important because people continually come out whether they're older or whether they're younger. and they don’t really know a lot of the history,” said Gray. “I think it's interesting and important for us to not forget what people did to make the Palm Springs area as the welcoming place it is for gays and lesbians. It didn't always used to be that way.” 

 

While books have been written about Palm Springs LGBTQ+ history including Palm Springs Babylon: Sizzling Stories from the Desert Playground of the Stars, A City Comes Out: How Celebrities Made Palm Springs a Gay and Lesbian Paradise, and Dinah! Three Decades of Sex, Golf, and Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Gray finds them inaccurate as they are based on rumors and innuendo and not facts. “There's no documentation,” Gray said. “It's just one person's opinions and stories of people in Palm Springs the way they wanted to see it, the way they heard it, or...embellished a bit to make a better story.” 

 

The mission of the LGBTQ+ History & Archives of the Desert is to collect, preserve and share the LGBTQ+ history of the Greater Palm Springs Area within the Coachella Valley. “We live in a community where people constantly move here or travel here, and they didn't really grow up here and they haven't been involved in the community and don't really know who these individuals are and what they did,” said Gray. “And it's really hard to rebuild because people don't think about keeping their history.”   

 

A pivotal moment of that history is, of course, the AIDS epidemic.  “When the AIDS crisis came, that affected a lot of the residents who had moved here from other places,” said Gray. “Things like Desert AIDS Project and Desert Regional Medical Center began treating people.” They [Desert Regional Medical Center] opened an AIDS ward and then an AIDS hospice. All those kinds of things became much more public, and people began to try to figure out what to do about it, just like they did everywhere in the country.” 

 

“Two of our famous residents -- Liberace and Rock Hudson -- impacted AIDS nationwide and worldwide,” Gray added.  Their homosexuality wasn’t acknowledged until just prior to or after their deaths but they had been long associated with Palm Springs.  After they both died, people like Elizabeth Taylor and others began AIDS foundations which gained national attention. “AIDS got on the radar and that forced the Reagan administration to begin to acknowledge it,” Gray said.  “Doris Day was a very good friend of Rock Hudson, and she was known to Middle America. Before that, I don't think Middle America really thought they knew anyone [with AIDS]. They just thought that this is a bunch of people in New York and San Francisco getting sick.”  

 

At Desert AIDS Project (now DAP Health), a group of grass-roots volunteers joined together in 1984 to respond to this never-before-seen disease. While the government and the health care system initially ignored the growing crisis, DAP Health stepped in and began implementing programs and services to support those in the Coachella Valley affected by HIV and AIDS.  Over the years, as testing and treatment became available, DAP Health continued to grow and adapt to meet the changing needs of its clients.  Today, it is a federally qualified health center whose goal is to improve the overall health of the entire community, especially the disenfranchised, by providing comprehensive, culturally competent, quality primary and preventative health care services. 

 

DAP Health continues to add to the rich legacy of Palm Springs’ LGBTQ+ History. A history that is now proudly and properly being preserved by the LGBTQ+ History & Archives of the Desert so that the valley residents can understand the extent of the contributions and impact made by the members of the LGBTQ+ community in making Palm Springs what it is today. 

Fighting Long COVID

Long Haul Covid

Fighting Long COVID 

September 28, 2022

Words by Alicia Green

 

Dr. David Morris, DAP Health chief medical officer, discusses what it is and next steps following a diagnosis.  

When most people get COVID-19, they tend to recover once the infection leaves their body. But some adults have been experiencing what scientists and doctors call “long COVID,” which can drastically change a person’s life and health.  

“Long COVID is the syndrome that people can experience after three months of having had COVID, and they continue to have symptoms after that,” says Dr. David Morris, chief medical officer at DAP Health. “The recovery can be for the rest of their lives or for another six months to one year.”  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40% of U.S. adults have reported having COVID-19. Of those adults, 19% report that they still have symptoms of long COVID. (The condition is also known as long-haul COVID, chronic COVID and post-acute COVID-19, among other names.) 

The Signs 

Because long COVID can affect multiple organs, there are a wide range of symptoms and signs. The most common ones are fatigue, the worsening of symptoms after physical or mental exertion, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath. In addition, respiratory and heart symptoms include cough, chest pain and heart palpitations.  

“Cardiomyopathy is one of the biggest ones,” Morris says. “It can affect the heart and cause it to not be as strong as it was prior to infection.”  

There are also neurological symptoms like headaches, sleep problems, changes in smell and taste, lightheadedness and difficulty thinking or concentrating, also called brain fog. Some people experience diarrhea, stomach pain, rashes and joint or muscle pain. 

The CDC reports that people who have had COVID-19 are more likely to develop new health conditions such as diabetes and heart or neurological conditions.  

COVID-19 has even led to impairment and disability. Being in the hospital, in the ICU or on a ventilator for months has caused muscular damage for patients. Some people have had to learn to walk again and still struggle with their movement.  

Risk Factors 

So what causes long COVID? Morris says there are many factors. Research shows that most patients with long COVID were on ventilators and had prolonged hospitalization, he explains.  

“It was probably the trauma of those hospitalizations, complications of being on a ventilator, an impaired immune system or multisystem organ failure,” Morris says. “Their body just never quite recovered from it.” 

Long COVID is also more likely to develop in people who had underlying health conditions prior to COVID-19 and are immunocompromised. For example, patients with asthma or other lung conditions, cancer or transplant patients on certain treatments, and those with inherited diseases that affect the immune system, according to the CDC.  

Morris explains that patients with HIV have the same risk of long COVID as the general population, which was a surprising finding to him. “Most people with HIV these days are not really immunosuppressed,” Morris says. “They have T cells that are high enough, viral loads that are suppressed and their own medications, so they don’t have depleted immune systems.” 

Minorities and people living in poverty are also at greater risk of developing long COVID than the general population. Morris attributes this to income disparities, a lack of proper health services and higher rates of disease among these communities.  

In addition, Morris was surprised to find that more women have long COVID than men and that more people in their 40s and 50s have the condition than older adults. That’s why he wants people to know that even the healthiest of individuals can develop chronic COVID. It affects anyone and everyone.  

Protect Yourself 

Morris encourages people to get the COVID-19 vaccine to help protect themselves from getting moderate to severe disease and being admitted to the hospital.  

“We’re on the fifth dose [of the vaccine],” Morris says. “It’s called Bivalent. It now covers the Omicron variants that have become resistant to some of the other treatments. It is very important for this flu season and COVID season that is getting ready to come up.”  

Morris points out that a University of California, San Francisco study found that the COVID vaccines improved symptoms of people that had long COVID. It’s another reason people should get their vaccines and boosters, he says.  

It’s also important that people begin to pay attention to the signs and signals in their bodies. Any symptoms that persist or form months after COVID should be reported to a primary doctor. For example, if a person can’t exercise anymore or has trouble remembering names, they need to tell their physician. The same goes for struggling with balance or newly developed high blood pressure.  

“Work with your clinician to make sure it’s not something else,” Morris says. “Because long COVID is truly a diagnosis of exclusion. That might mean your clinician would begin doing diagnostic workups.”  

Primary care doctors at DAP Health are on a mission to look out for long COVID in patients. That means they are actively listening to patients and the symptoms they report. Once they conduct blood work and scans to figure out what the problem is, they get patients into specialty care. That could mean a referral to a cardiologist, pulmonologist, neurologist or an infectious disease doctor.  

There is also a social services department onsite that helps people who are struggling in other areas of their life because of long COVID. The department assists with financial and physicals concerns, such as being unable to afford gas and having trouble cleaning the house or buying groceries.  

“It goes beyond just the physical and medical limitations,” Morris explains. “Depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder are huge in post-COVID.” 

That’s why it is important to have a behavioral health specialist, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist to assist people with their mental health while struggling with long COVID. Morris adds that patients can utilize such services at DAP Health as well.  

His advice to DAP Health patients is simple: use masks, use common sense and wash your hands. DAP Health employees continue to wear masks and conduct COVID screenings for visitors. He also encourages everyone to follow the health regulations for California and Riverside County.  

“Don’t let your guard down,” Morris says. “People have been so tired of doing this for so long. We are tired of COVID, wearing masks and talking about it, but it’s still here. We expect that probably yearly we’ll all be needing to get a COVID vaccine.”  

DAP Health Gets Ready to Walk, Out Loud

DAP Health Gets Ready to Walk, Out Loud  

On Saturday, October 29, 2022, DAP Health will host its annual Desert AIDS Walk. For 35 consecutive years, the walk has raised critical funds for HIV/AIDS programs and services in the valley while celebrating survivors and remembering those who lost their lives to the disease. Goals for this year’s walk include walking to help end the HIV and AIDS epidemics in the Coachella Valley and to promote health equity and health justice.  

The theme of this year's walk is Walk, Out Loud, because DAP Health has been watching the current socio-political climate in the nation and has seen challenges like this before. “We’re using our voices and our feet to advocate for members of our community who don’t have access to the healthcare they need and deserve,” said DAP Health Director of Brand Marketing, Steven Henke. “Together, we are going to help connect more people to wellness. DAP has always been an advocacy-based health care organization and this year, we are inviting community members who believe in health equity to lace up their walking shoes, join arms with their neighbors and be advocates for change” 

The Palm Springs AIDS Walk began in 1987, two years after the world’s first AIDS Walk was held in Los Angeles. Thousands of people were on hand to raise awareness and funds for the deadly disease. Local activists Dr. David Kaminsky and his wife Jan chaired the event.  The late actor Kirk Douglas, a prominent valley resident, was a featured speaker who encouraged participants at the start of the walk by telling them, “Let’s walk, run, do whatever we can to eradicate AIDS.” Former President Gerald Ford and former first lady Betty Ford joined the post-event picnic. Mrs. Ford attended the event again in 1995. The late Sonny Bono, then Palm Springs mayor, took part in the walk in the early 90s.  

The walk has a loyal following. Between 1,200–1,500 people participate each year. One of those walkers, DAP Health Board Chair Patrick Jordan, has been involved since 2007. Over the years, he and his team, Palm Springs Properties, have raised millions of dollars for the organization.  For Jordan, it is a labor of love. “It's one of my favorite events that we do every year for a number of reasons,” he said. “Number one being its very community-focused. It is not community specific, so it is not just for people living with HIV and AIDS. It is everybody. And that is what I love. It is kids, dogs, and families and Black, White, purple, and everything else. It really involves the entire community and I love that spirit.” 

Even the recent COVID-19 pandemic could not deter DAP Health from holding its walk, albeit virtually. “We were able to pivot, and we did a virtual walk,” said DAP Health Director of Development, James Lindquist. “We invited people to either walk in their neighborhoods or go to their health centers or gyms... We provided six to eight maps [of 10K routes] that were throughout the Coachella Valley. We also provided the map that we normally do. People posted about where they were walking and what they were doing that day. It was great. It was a nice way to still be connected, even though we could not be together. It was still a staggering amount of money that was raised and people that still wanted to support DAP Health, especially during COVID.” 

As medical advances have been made and more effective treatments found, the focus of the walk has shifted slightly. The first one was aimed at keeping teens free of HIV. Most patients in 1987 were in their 20s and, since HIV can incubate for years, were exposed as teens.  Subsequent walks continued to raise awareness and funds to further research and drug development but in recent years, with the ability to successfully manage HIV and AIDS, looking to the future where a specific walk for HIV/AIDS is no longer necessary is a real possibility. “I would love the day when we don't have to have a walk,” said Lindquist. “My goal is that this walk will change to something that is more along the lines of health equity rather than just a focus on HIV.” 

“The walk will always continue until there's a cure,” said Jordan. “I would like to get to that point where we say we are not walking. We get closer and closer every year, but until there is, I will continue.” 

Register to walk or donate in support of this year’s Desert AIDS Walk by visit ing desertaidswalk.org. 

DAP HEALTH RESPONDS TO THE MONKEYPOX GLO …

DAP HEALTH RESPONDS TO THE MONKEYPOX GLOBAL HEALTH EMERGENCY 

August 22, 2022

When monkeypox was declared a global health emergency, DAP Health was quick to respond. “We've already gone down this path, said CJ Tobe, DAP Health director of community health and sexual wellness. “We already have partnerships and workflows. So, it was just like, oh, we just have to do what we did through COVID. I mean, that’s what monkeypox is resembling.” 

As of mid-August, there were 2,356 confirmed cases of monkeypox in California; 94 of which are in Riverside County.  97.7 % of those infected are male. 94.5% identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. “We are seeing a significant impact on men who have sex with men, people who are doing sex work, massage therapy, group sex, the party and play community, anybody that really has that physical touch that they have in their life,” said Tobe.  “Those are the people most at risk right now for monkeypox.” 

After an initial meeting with the Riverside County Department of Public Health and establishing an internal monkeypox task force, Tobe reached out to the business owners in the community including the CCBC Resort and All Worlds Resorts. “Those are probably the two [biggest] venues here in our area when it comes to sex venues and people doing group sex and living their authentic sexual lives,” he said. “All Worlds’ owners immediately closed the maze room. That's where a lot of the group sex happens. We're talking hundreds of people. They immediately said ‘for the health and well-being of our community and to stop the spread of monkeypox, we're closing the maze down. So, they made that determination.” 

“We then connected the CCBC Resort with Riverside County,” continued Tobe. “There are currently vaccines that are happening as we speak where Riverside County is actually providing vaccines on site at this men's resort.” 

 “We have another virus that is specifically attacking men who have sex with men, and we know, just like with HIV, [the virus] attacked gay men specifically right at the beginning, but now it’s impacting Black folks, heterosexuals trans folks... a whole bunch of people,” Tobe added. “With monkeypox, it's going to be the same thing. It's just so interesting to see how this virus may impact one community at the start, but we're all people so it's going to continue to spread throughout this community, which is why prevention and vaccines are so important.” 

Access to vaccines, however, has been difficult.  There is a limited amount available. David Brinkman, chief executive officer and president of DAP Health has reached out to elected officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to advocate for more vaccines. Because of the short supply, DAP Health is following county guidelines to determine who is eligible to receive the two-dose inoculation. “We're leading the effort as far as vaccines,” said Tobe. “DAP Health received 160 vaccines on July 20th, and we went through all of them in five days. We just received 337 more doses so we are calling patients now for them to come in so we can start administering them.” 

Like the COVID vaccine rollout, there are simply not enough to meet the immediate need. “When we look at monkeypox, knowing that there are limited supply vaccines, we need to make sure that the people most at risk are getting those vaccines first,” said Tobe.   “As we continue to get more vaccines, we'll continue to follow the priorities that are given to us by the county. But right now, we're just in a situation where we are rationing vaccines, and we have to make sure that these vaccines get into the people at risk and then, as more vaccines become available, we'll widen our guidelines, which will be to all people, if they choose.” 

On August 1, 2022, DAP Health launched a monkeypox hotline.  “Anybody in the community that wants updated information... or who has questions can call the hotline,” said Tobe. “Anybody who wants to be assessed for getting access to monkeypox testing and/or the vaccines would have the most updated information coming through this hotline that will be triaged and responded by our volunteers.”  The hotline – which can be reached at 760-656-8432 or MPox@daphealth.org --operates Monday-Friday, 8:00 – 11:30 am and 1:00 -4:00 pm.  Those calling after hours will receive recorded information.   

Partnerships with other organizations have also played an important part in DAP Health’s overall strategy. “Desert Healthcare District is always a great partner,” said Tobe. “We've had a call with them, Desert Oasis, Healthcare, Riverside County Department of Public Health. I know Borrego Health and Eisenhower Health attend the weekly community forums. There's just really a lot of partnerships and communication and dialogue that's continuing to happen.” 

In fact, DAP Health, Desert Healthcare District and Foundation, Desert Care Network and the City of Palm Springs recently collaborated on creating a high-profile, full-page advertisement in the August 14th edition of the Sacramento Bee to call attention to the lack of monkeypox vaccines being distributed to the LGBTQ+ community, currently the population most affected by the virus. 

DAP Health is also getting the word out though its social media channels.  “We're advertising on social media like Grindr,” said Tobe. “It's really targeted to specific audiences that are most impacted, making sure that they [see ads on their apps] where they can click and be steered to our landing page: daphealth.org/monkeypox. So, people have the most updated information.” 

DAP Health’s response will continue to evolve to meet the needs of its clients as the outbreak continues and new challenges arise. “It's just in our DNA to continue to respond to crisis after crisis,” said Tobe. “We’re going to continue to do it for years to come. It’s in our DNA to be proactive in our response.”  

DAP HEALTH ACHIEVES GUIDESTAR GOLD STATU …

DAP HEALTH ACHIEVES GUIDESTAR GOLD STATUS 

August 22, 2022

DAP Health was recently awarded a gold star rating by GuideStar, the information clearinghouse that specializes in reporting on non-profit organizations. Less than 5% of non-profits registered with GuideStar have achieved this ranking.  

GuideStar maintains a database of more than 1.8 million IRS-recognized non-profits in the United States. By tracking financial information, key leadership, and a series of other metrics including demographics on diversity, equity, and inclusion, it allows potential funders to thoroughly research any non-profit to see if it aligns with their charitable objectives.  It also gives the non-profit the opportunity to demonstrate their level of transparency. 

By making the organization’s information easily accessible, DAP Health can define its mission, goals, and strategy to a broader range of new funding sources. For businesses and foundations looking to invest their grant dollars in responsible non-profits, GuideStar is a necessary tool to help them make informed decisions on where to put their designated charitable funds. 

“It’s recognition of the work we’ve done to be transparent,” said David Brinkman, CEO of DAP Health.  “It shows funders – from institutions to individuals – that integrity is paramount in everything we do.”  

The gold star rating lets DAP Health expand its ability to reach out to new funding sources including corporations, family foundations, and donors.  It shows existing as well as possible new funders that the organization is fiscally responsible, well-run, and responsive not only to its clientele but to its grantors as well. 

“It means that we've become an even better investment,” said. Bill VanHemert, director of institutional giving.  “The agency is fiscally stable and secure, and it has been in the field for over a number of years.” 

With this designation, DAP Health can also attract like-minded employees who share its values and want to expand its mission of providing compassionate and equitable care for the community.  Prospective employees can get a better understanding of DAP Health’s ideology and how the organization operates.  

“When we have an open position and are looking for any type of clinician or for leadership positions, by them seeing [the gold star badge], when they go to our website and look for careers, they can say, ‘Oh, they're a gold star...They're a good investment, even to work for,’” said VanHermet. 

To see DAP Health’s GuideStar profile, visit guidestar.org. 

DAP Health’s New Harm Reduction Progra …

DAP Health’s New Harm Reduction Program Seeks to Curb Rising Overdose and HIV Rates in the Coachella Valley  

Words by Ellen Bluestein 

According to Riverside County Strategic Health Alliance Pursuing Equity (SHAPE), recent data indicate an upward trend in the death rate from drug use. In California, there are 13.1 deaths per 100,000 people. In DAP Health’s service area, however, that number jumps to 17.5 per 100,000.  

With an increase in drug use comes an increase in HIV transmissions through shared needles.  As reported by the Riverside University Health System, the HIV incidence rate in Riverside County is 10 cases per 100,000.  However, in DAP Health’s service area, the incidence rate is almost double that at 18.4 cases per 100,000. “DAP Health continues to respond to community needs,” said to CJ Tobe, DAP Health director of community health and sexual wellness. “We saw new HIV infections increase through the COVID pandemic and we saw that the 92262 ZIP Code had a 300% higher death rate compared to the state average caused by opioids.” 

In response to these increases, DAP Health recently launched its harm reduction program to combat the rise in preventable overdoses as well as the increase in new HIV cases.  “The goal of the program is to create a safe, stigma-free environment to establish trust for those living with addiction so they can have conversations with harm reduction staff to see how best they can be supported,” said Tobe. "Harm reduction is a strategy to engage with folks during their journey with addiction, meeting them where they are at and as part of a path to using drugs safely, reducing their use, or to recovery. 

Also known as a Syringe Service Program (SSP), DAP Heath’s new initiative, overseen by Harm Reduction Supervisor Neil Gussardo, offers participants the opportunity to turn in their used syringes and leave with whatever clean paraphernalia they need – sterile water, filters, pipes – to safely use drugs.  It is not, Gussardo emphasized, a needle exchange program.  

In a study by Dr. Alex Wodack, an international leader in harm reduction, it was determined that when people who inject drugs use an SSP, they are five times as likely to enter drug treatment as those who don't use one. In addition, “syringe service programs are one of the most effective interventions in decreasing new HIV and hepatitis C infections,” said Tobe.  

Response to the program has been positive. “Participants are thrilled to have it “They're really grateful,” said Gussardo.  “One of the things that we're providing is Narcan, which is a medication that reverses overdoses and fentanyl test strips.” 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines fentanyl as a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It is a major contributor to fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the U.S. “Fentanyl is a manmade opiate that is cheap to produce and is being put into everything,” said Gussardo. “So, everything from opiates like heroin to methamphetamine...These drugs are being cut with it.” With test strips, “people are able to test their drugs and then make a better-informed decision as to how they move forward should they find fentanyl in the drugs,” he said.  To use the strips, a person would either cook or mix up some of their drugs in water. “You put the test strip in, then it’s like a COVID test,” said Gussardo.  “If it's got a couple of lines, it's positive [for fentanyl]; one line, it's negative.”  The test takes about five to seven minutes to process. 

The harm reduction team also provides Narcan and naloxone to those who request it.  Both will reverse an overdose. Narcan is used as a nasal spray while naloxone is injected, like an EpiPen. Each has its benefits. “One of the advantages of the naloxone, the needle, is that it's more difficult to use a nasal spray on somebody that is having a seizure,” said Gussardo.  “The needle can be put through clothing; it can go directly into muscles.”  

“A person might anticipate that they're injecting or even smoking methamphetamine, which is going to give them a different high than an opiate,” said Gussardo. “And the next thing, you know, instead of kind of being amped up, they're now fading out because of the fentanyl. And should somebody go into an overdose and somebody else has the Narcan, it will reverse the overdose temporarily. Narcan can last anywhere from about 40 minutes to 90 minutes,” he said. “So, the person does need to seek medical attention.” The same holds true for naloxone.  

Learning to identify the signs of an overdose is the first step to help treat them.  “Breathing is the biggest thing,” said Gussardo. “The opioids...start to slow down the whole body to the point where somebody stops breathing and that's what kills them.”  He added, “You can check the pulse and you want to see if there's any kind of response, so you certainly want to yell at somebody: ‘Hey, hello! Wake up! Are you okay?’”  

Should either drug be administered, “a minute or two later, they should come out of the overdose,” said Gussardo. “What happens is there are literal opiate receptors in the brain and opiates come in and they connect to that receptor. The Narcan gets in the way of that and takes the opiate off the receptor. “ 

While some may be hesitant to use Narcan or naloxone for fear of causing harm if a person is not actually overdosing, Gussardo reassures that neither drug will negatively impact somebody if they are not overdosing on an opiate. 

As the program grows and a solid foundation laid, Gussardo’s team will start to reach out to other areas of the valley. “I anticipate the needs in other areas of the valley are going to be similar, but different,” he said. “Different demographics, different needs, probably different drugs being used.” 

Ultimately, Tobe would like the harm reduction program to connect participants to other medical and social support services. Currently, the program includes testing participants for HIV and Hepatitis C with the goal of getting them on medication as soon as possible if they test positive. Other services available will be counseling, DAP Health’s Outpatient Drug Free (ODF) program, help with insurance enrollment or with making an appointment with a primary care physician for the first time. 

“At DAP Health we accept all people, period, said Tobe.  “We choose to value the lives and choices of others with respect and compassion over discrimination, judgment, and stigma. The harm reduction program does just that for folks in our community who need support.” 

DAP Health Update on the Monkeypox Virus

DAP Health Update on the Monkeypox Virus  

July 18, 2022

The monkeypox virus outbreak in the United States continues to grow, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists over 1,814 monkeypox cases, 266  of which are in the state of California. 

Last week, we hosted the first conversation about Monkeypox with our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. David Morris. More are being planned. You can watch the first conversation here. 

As cases grow, monkeypox vaccine continues to be in short supply across the country.  

DAP Health is working very closely with local public health departments to advocate for more vaccines for Monkeypox. In the next 6-8 weeks we should have more information about the vaccine availability. Currently, Riverside County has approximately 540 doses of the vaccine.  

The first group of individuals who are eligible for the vaccine are those who have mild to moderate symptoms of monkeypox, such as swollen lymph nodes and prior to skin lesions. These people are eligible for a vaccine. The second group of individuals who are eligible are those who have had skin-to-skin contact with a confirmed case of monkeypox. If you are in either of these categories, you should reach out to your primary care clinician for more information on how you can gain access to a Monkeypox vaccine. While we know that this isn’t the perfect scenario, we are working tirelessly to secure doses of the vaccine and become a partner site to potentially provide the vaccine to individuals who would like to take the vaccine as a pre-exposure prophylaxis health measure. 

Many of our community members have questions about Monkeypox. We’ve created a resource guide to help answer your questions. You can view the page here. We will be updating this page when we receive any new information. Since our founding, we have fought for LGBTQ+ health equity. Monkeypox is currently affecting that community disproportionately and you can expect DAP Health to bring its experience to addressing the outbreak and keeping you updated as new information becomes available.