• Sexual Wellness Services

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High-Flying Volunteer

                         Star DAP Health volunteer Jim Gonzales and fashion icon Donna Karan.

High-Flying Volunteer

Jim Gonzales has been all over the globe, but there’s no place like DAP Health.

Words by Kent Black

It might be said that Jim Gonzales is used to the thin air of high altitudes. The Raton, New Mexico native (elev. 6680 feet) worked for Frontier and United Airlines as a flight attendant for 37 years, jetting all over the world to favorite destinations such as Barcelona and Sydney. “I much preferred flying to being in an office,” he says from his lovely home near the Parker Palm Springs. “You get on the airplane, do your job, be nice, and then go home.”

When Gonzales retired in 2015, he and his late husband moved to the desert. Having volunteered for his union for the Colorado AIDS Project, he reached out to DAP Health to see what he could do to help. The nonprofit obliged. His first assignment was to help work the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, overseeing the silent auction. “I was really nervous as heck about it,” he admits, “but we ended up doing really well.”

Since then, his volunteer portfolio has grown to include duties commensurate with his welcoming and personable disposition. Each January, he donates his time at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

At DAP Health, he helps with fundraising for the organization’s Partners For Life major donor program, its annual Health Equity Walk, and the client Thanksgiving feast. He’s also one of the rotating volunteers who guides the monthly Impact Hour, where guests are led on a behind-the-scenes tour of the DAP Health campus and introduced to its programs and services. “It’s really impressive. Especially when we show them the 61-unit apartment building going up,” he says. “And there’s always a client present to talk about their journey and how they got there.”

Since making Palm Springs his home, Gonzales says, “I have been afforded the opportunity to work with and meet many giving and wonderful people who are also committed to the mission of DAP Health. Helping everyone who has a need … what could be better?”

And, of course, he’s always available for The Chase. Last year, he had the honor of escorting fashion designer and philanthropist Donna Karan when she was honored with DAP Health’s Equity Award. As a seasoned awards escort, what fashion icon does he hope to guide along the red carpet in the future? Perhaps Norma Kamali? “Oh, no,” he says. “I’m hoping for Tom Ford.”

To learn more about how to become a volunteer at DAP Health—at Revivals thrift stores, at special events, or on campus—please click here.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About …

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Poppers

Words by Daniel Hirsch

 

Poppers. Not only are they a staple of disco dance floors, sex shops, and — more recently — gay internet memes, but openly queer pop star Troye Sivan recently placed them front and center in the mainstream by openly paying homage to them with his summer 2023 smash hit “Rush,” a song title that not-so-coincidentally is the name of a beloved brand of poppers.

But what exactly are poppers? What risks do they present users? And how can these risks be mitigated? I spoke with DAP Health Chief of Community Health C.J. Tobe and asked all of the tough questions.

 

What are poppers?

C.J. Tobe: Basically, poppers is the casual name for a liquid inhalant. Most people are probably familiar with using poppers on the dance floors in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Then they transitioned into being extremely useful during sex. There are four different chemicals that can make up poppers [amyl nitrite, isopropyl nitrite, butyl nitrite, and pentyl nitrite].

 

Why do people do poppers?

Because they feel good. They make sex even more enjoyable. It also helps relax people. So people who may have sex anxiety or need “liquid courage” (like we talk about with alcohol) may find poppers helpful.

 

What actually happens to your body when you use poppers?

When you inhale poppers, your blood vessels are going to expand, and it’s then going to increase the blood flow and oxygen level within your veins. So that’s what makes it feel euphoric. It’s like a rush, essentially. But while all that is happening, it’s also gonna decrease your blood pressure. Obviously, people with heart conditions are definitely advised to be very, very cautious.

 

Speaking of being cautious, if one were to do poppers, is there any way to do them more safely?

Probably don’t use them alone, because using them will increase your blood flow, which will then lower your blood pressure. Just in the event that you do pass out, you don’t want to be alone. So … poppers and porn? Not the best idea.

A lot of people who use poppers, especially during sex, are also taking erectile dysfunction medicine. That’s an added risk for decreasing blood pressure, which can eventually cause someone to pass out — potentially even vomit and die as well.

 

Are there any other risks to consider?

Generally, some research shows that using poppers can put you at a higher risk of getting an STI, including HIV. Everyone should regularly be screened for STIs and HIV. We also recommend considering being on PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) or PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent HIV, and/or on DoxyPrEP or DoxyPEP to prevent STIs.

Next one’s for the bottoms: Poppers make sex more enjoyable, but they’ll also give you a high, where you become dizzy and you don’t know exactly what’s going on. You could put yourself in a vulnerable position, where someone could take advantage of you. They could tie you up, or do a “booty bump” [insert unwanted drugs into your rectum]. It just makes you less aware of your surroundings, which also could increase the possibility of something negative happening.

 

What about the dreaded, so-called “poppers nose,” (aka chemical burns in one’s nostrils)?

My advice to prevent this would be to inhale through your mouth. Just like a cigarette [without putting your lips on the bottle]. It bypasses actually going up through your nostrils and won’t give you a headache. I learned that from an expert who reps a national poppers brand.

 

Can poppers be addictive?

There’s little research to prove or disprove the addictive effects. However, from a cognitive behavioral perspective, anything can become addictive, especially agents that produce pleasure, promote escapism, or assist in numbing.

Poppers create a sense of euphoria, so someone can very well become accustomed to this experience while having sex, and require it to allow for a full sense of pleasure due to the association. However, ultimately, physiological dependence? No. 

I would add to this: It is very much recognized as a relapse trigger for those in recovery. The erotic experience can create what is referred to as “euphoric recall,” which directly sets off a chain of thought and behavior patterns. So related to addiction, it is definitely high-risk. 

 

How come poppers are sometimes sold with code names like VCR cleaner or tar remover? Why the code names? Are poppers legal?

From my last understanding, it’s illegal to consume nitrite, as well as some of the things that go into poppers for recreational use. So, when you would go into a store, they’re sometimes number coded: “I want number two, I want number eight, I want the yellow or the red.” Legally, we’re not really allowed to state that you were there to get poppers in a sex shop or store. It’s legal to sell it, but it should not be used recreationally.

 

Anything else to add?

I know this is going to sound very corny, but talk to your doctor! I know it’s so basic to people. We can Google all day… But, ultimately, just tell your doctor you want to do poppers. Or let them know you’ve been doing poppers for 10 years. They can look at your medication list for any potential risks and ensure you are receiving sexual wellness support.

I think the more education and knowledge we have around health matters, the better. Even if your doctor may not be culturally competent on poppers, you can start that conversation to make them curious. Get them educated on poppers so they can help guide and educate some of their other patients.

And I just have to add, here at DAP Health, we are very culturally competent. We all know all about poppers. And we provide service without stigma, shame, or judgment. You can always ask your DAP Health provider anything.

 

Image courtesy of Not So Innocent adult entertainment store, 2100 North Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262

Desert Care Network Donates $2.5 Million …

DESERT CARE NETWORK DONATES $2.5 MILLION TO DAP HEALTH IN SUPPORT OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING

The generous gift, part of DAP Health’s Vision Forward campus expansion, will go toward programs and services for residents of the organization’s second on-campus housing complex, Vista Sunrise II, enabling residents to access lifesaving care in their own backyard.

 

Desert Care Network (DCN) continues its longstanding support of DAP Health with a significant $2.5 million contribution toward the nonprofit’s Vision Forward campus expansion campaign and soon-to-be-unveiled affordable housing complex, Vista Sunrise II. The generous gift reflects DCN’s dedication to addressing the needs of the diverse communities both organizations serve. This commitment will help provide equitable housing solutions for individuals facing challenges such as homelessness and chronic illnesses.

“At Desert Care Network, we are deeply committed to improving the health and well-being of all residents in the Coachella Valley,” says Desert Regional Medical Center & Desert Care Network CEO Michele Finney. “Our 40-year partnership with DAP Health, and this donation toward its Palm Springs campus expansion, focus on much-needed affordable housing, and align perfectly with our mission to provide comprehensive care to our most vulnerable residents. To support the health of our entire community, we know we are better together.”

“Thank you, Desert Care Network, for understanding — as we do — that housing is health care,” adds DAP Health CEO David Brinkman. “Together, we are transforming lives and building a healthier, more compassionate community. By focusing on health equity and social drivers of health, we highlight the connection between housing and superior health outcomes. The ability of Vista Sunrise II residents, most of whom have no means of reliable transportation, to access primary and mental health care — not to mention wraparound social services such as nutrition, health education, and so much more — within a short walk next door is a game-changer for some of our most marginalized neighbors.”

Vista Sunrise II, a collaborative effort between DAP Health and developer Coachella Valley Housing Coalition, will provide affordable housing while incorporating thoughtful design elements and sustainable construction practices. This innovative project will feature 61 units, with 30 dedicated to rapid rehousing for individuals experiencing homelessness and 30 units allocated to those with chronic illnesses and/or low incomes. Key features include:

Thoughtfully Designed Living Spaces: The units will offer a variety of configurations, including one- and two-bedroom layouts, with a housing manager’s home also onsite. Each unit has been designed to prioritize comfort and functionality, featuring large windows for natural daylight, office nooks for work-from-home opportunities, and mobility-accessible options for residents with special needs.

Sustainable Construction Practices: The project incorporates environmentally friendly practices such as density housing on an existing site to minimize land clearing, “cool roof” materials to reduce energy costs, and all-electric appliances to decrease reliance on fossil fuels. Additionally, carports with solar panels will offset the complex’s power grid electrical needs, further enhancing its sustainability.

Unique Amenities: Vista Sunrise II offers a range of amenities to foster community engagement and well-being, including rooftop terraces with mountain views, outdoor courtyards, a community center for gatherings and learning, and on-site case management services for residents. The proximity to DAP Health programs and services, grocery stores, shops, and an adjacent park will encourage residents to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.

Vista Sunrise II represents a beacon of affordable housing innovation, combining compassionate care with sustainable practices to create a thriving community for all residents. With Desert Care Network’s generous contribution, this project will continue to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals and families in Palm Springs for decades to come.

 

About DAP Health

DAP Health, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2024, is an internationally renowned humanitarian health care organization and federally qualified health center (FQHC) whose goal is to protect and expand health care access for all people — especially the disenfranchised — regardless of who or where they are, their health status, or whether they have health insurance.
 
In 2023, the nonprofit made a successful bid to absorb the Borrego Health system, enabling its 950 employees to serve more than 85,000 patients of all populations, genders, and ages — from newborns to seniors — at a total of 25 Southern California clinics located within 240 rural and urban zip codes from the Coachella Valley to the San Diego coast.

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

The organization was founded as Desert AIDS Project in 1984 by a group of volunteers. Thanks to nearly 40 years of experience caring for those affected not only by the HIV epidemic but by various other public health emergencies (COVID-19, mpox), DAP Health has the physical and intellectual resources, the drive, and — most importantly — the vision to effect even greater change by positively impacting its diverse patient populations’ social drivers of health (SDOH).
 
According to the World Health Organization, SDOH are “the non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. They are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.”
 
The next epidemic hasn’t surfaced — yet. But just as DAP Health met earlier community health crises decisively and successfully, its experts stand at the ready.

 

About Vision Forward

Vision Forward is DAP Health’s 10-year strategic plan that will see the organization grow from serving 10,000 individuals annually today at its Sunrise campus to 25,000 patients and clients a year by 2025. So far, this broadminded expansion has encompassed:

  • The purchase of the Annette Bloch CARE Building and the opening of its three clinics.
  • The opening of a DAP Health sexual wellness clinic in Palm Springs.
  • Construction of Vista Sunrise II, which will feature 61 new units of affordable housing, to be completed in the second quarter of 2024.

Still to come is the Tenet Health Pavilion, a structure that will bridge the Barbara Keller LOVE Building and the Annette Bloch CARE Building, and which will include:

  • A transit- and pedestrian-friendly pathway.
  • A central registration area for all patient services.
  • A cafe open to the public that will be staffed and managed by clients of DAP Health’s Return-to-Work program.

 

About Desert Care Network

Desert Care Network is your health care resource in the Coachella Valley and Morongo Basin regions of Southern California. We are three hospitals: Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio, and Hi-Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree. Working together, we bring advanced health care to our communities.

We operate a Level 1 trauma center at Desert Regional, the highest possible. And Level 4 trauma centers at JFK and Hi-Desert.

We have created a network of stroke-ready hospitals, anchored by Desert Regional Medical Center — our valley’s only nationally accredited comprehensive stroke center — and supported by the primary stroke center at JFK and the certified stroke-ready hospital at Hi-Desert.

Desert Regional is home to the only Level 3 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for newborns in the Coachella Valley. We also operate a hospital-based clinic that provides high-risk care for expectant moms.

DCN has an unwavering commitment to our community. We train the next generations of physicians through our residency program, and those doctors staff mobile clinics that provide services to the underserved, unhoused, and refugee populations across the desert.

DCN provides over a hundred million dollars in free and discounted health care to patients in need each year. In the last three decades, we have given millions of dollars in charitable donations and sponsorships to local organizations, including DAP Health, FIND Food Bank, the Women Leaders Forum, Volunteers in Medicine, and many more.

We are dedicated, driven, and proud to serve the health care needs of the Coachella Valley, the Morongo Basin, and everyone who visits our desert.

 

About Coachella Valley Housing Coalition

The Coachella Valley Housing Coalition was founded in 1982 by a group of community advocates, the local community, and business leaders, to address the substandard living conditions farmworkers and other low-income persons were enduring in the Eastern Coachella Valley.

Their innate sense of compassion for the human condition inspired them to help hundreds of families move out of inadequate living conditions — which included makeshift power poles in unpermitted mobile home parks, contaminated drinking water, and other crude housing additions made of cardboard — into safe, decent, and affordable housing. With a $10,000-dollar seed grant from the Aetna Foundation, the board of directors established the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition (CVHC).

Today, CVHC is an award-winning tax-exempt 501 (c)(3), nonprofit affordable housing development organization that has been named amongst the Top 50 Affordable Housing Developers in the country. Every CVHC housing community is built with a solid commitment to partnerships, vision, and extensive community planning. CVHC is a Neighbor Works® America chartered member and a Rural LISC partner. It has developed affordable housing throughout Riverside and Imperial Counties, and has developed more than 5,000 multi-family and single-family residences, making it the largest affordable housing developer in Riverside County.

Key Programs

Rental Housing: Through its Multi-Family Housing Development department, CVHC builds affordable rental housing for working families (in hospitality, retail, and health care), farmworkers, retired farmworkers, migrant farmworkers, veterans, and families/individuals with special needs — the elderly, people with disabilities, and chronic illnesses. With more than 41 affordable rental communities totaling 2,953 units developed throughout Riverside County, CVHC offers an array of housing options for renters who are looking for a steppingstone to homeownership, or who are in need of affordable rental housing. CVHC is proud to partner with DAP Health on the development and operations of Vista Sunrise II, a 61-unit special needs development located in the city of Palm Springs. The development will include 29 units for chronically homeless individuals and 31 units for chronic illnesses. The Vista Sunrise II development will be CVHC’s fifth special needs development constructed in Riverside County.

Homeownership Through the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program: Since 1989, CVHC has been helping families fulfill their dream of homeownership. Creating affordable homeownership opportunities for low-income families is a part of CVHC’s mission. The mutual self-help housing program means homes are built in part by homeowners. In the mutual self-help program, families work together and collectively build each other’s homes by using their sweat equity in place of a down payment.    Mutual self-help housing essentially builds communities based on a shared commitment of hard work, mutual support, and lifelong bonds. CVHC is the largest mutual self-help developer in the nation. To date, over 2,160 single-family homes have been constructed throughout Riverside and Imperial counties.

Community Engagement: CVHC also provides enrichment and educational programs at its Multi-Family developments. These include early childhood education centers, afterschool kids clubs, computer Instruction + technology centers, ballet folklorico dance instruction, mariachi music instruction, alternative high school diploma and GED programs for adults, community gardens + wellness for seniors, health and wellness educational classes + events, and English as a second language.

John F. Mealey College Scholarship Fund: In 2020, CVHC created the JFM Scholarship Fund in honor of its founding executive director. The scholarship is awarded annually to students living in CVHC developments who are seeking a higher education at any accredited college, university, or vocation school. To date, more than $962,000 in scholarships have been awarded, benefiting more than 889 students, supporting their dreams, and helping them persevere to complete their degrees.

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A Guide to Safely Hooking Up Online

A Guide to Safely Hooking Up Online

While popular online dating and hookup apps offer a convenient way to meet new people, their relative anonymity can also leave you open to danger. It’s therefore essential that you prioritize your safety. This guide is aimed at those who use these apps and would like to reduce the risk of situations that are uncomfortable at best, and life-threatening at worst.

 

Before

Define Expectations
Discuss intentions and desires openly. Talk in detail about what you’re both looking for, including any kinks/fetishes. If either

of you uses drugs, communicate your preferences and boundaries clearly.

Exchange Face Pics
Insist on receiving recent face pics. If they refuse to share, that’s a red flag. Move on.

Get a Phone Number
Swap phone numbers, then give a call or send a text. If they refuse to share, that’s a red flag. Move on.

Take Screenshots
Capture the person’s profile, face pics, and all your texted conversation, including their phone number. This documentation can be vital if issues arise later.

Tell a Friend
Share details (who, what, where) with a trusted friend. Ask that they check up on you if they don’t hear from you within an agreed-upon time.

Secure Valuables and Beware of Scams
Be cautious and secure your valuables. Be vigilant about scams and fraudulent behavior.

Install a Security Camera
If you have security cameras, such as a security doorbell or surveillance system, use them to observe the person before opening your door. If you don’t have cameras, you can still lessen potential risk by telling the person you do.

Trust Your Instincts
Above all, no matter what, listen to your gut. It rarely lies. If anything feels off at any point, you have the right to end the interaction at any time — even during or after sex. Consent is continuous, and you can withdraw it at any moment.

 

During

Trust Your Instincts

Above all, no matter what, listen to your gut. It rarely lies. If anything feels off at any point, you have the right to end the interaction at any time — even during or after sex. Consent is continuous, and you can withdraw it at any moment.

Note Physical Characteristics
Pay attention to distinctive features such as scars, tattoos, or birthmarks. This may be useful to identify the person later.

Bondage
Be extremely careful when using bondage and restraints with someone you don’t know.

Stay Sober
Don’t play when you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which can lead to poor judgment and leave you very vulnerable.

Engage in Safer Drug Use
If you do choose to use drugs, do so as wisely as possible. And test them beforehand, whether they’re from an unknown source or not. Free fentanyl and xylazine testing strips are widely available — including at DAP Health — and can help prevent accidental overdoses.

 

This Isn’t Fun Anymore!

Drugged and/or Assaulted?
You may suddenly find yourself incapacitated, or unable to consent. Common symptoms of having been drugged include drowsiness, disorientation, dizziness, and/or excessive intoxication despite having consumed a minimal amount of alcohol or drugs.

Collect Evidence
If you can do so safely and discreetly, take photos or videos of your attacker, yourself, relevant objects, and your location. This evidence could help legal action you may choose to pursue.

Leave
If you believe you’ve been drugged, or are in immediate danger, try to leave safely.

Stay, Scream, Fight Back
If leaving isn’t possible, scream to attract attention, and/or use any available object to defend yourself.

Call 911
If you can, call 911. Explain your situation as clearly and calmly as possible, providing your location. If you’re unable to speak, stay on the line to allow emergency services to trace your call.

 

After

Remember It’s Not Your Fault
It’s important to recognize that shame and embarrassment are common responses, but please know you are not to blame. Assaults can happen to individuals of all genders, and you are innocent in this situation.

Seek Medical Attention
This is crucial to ensure your well-being and to collect any potential evidence.

Make a Police Report
If you’ve experienced a crime, reporting it to the authorities can help prevent further harm to others. Also, remember that reporting a crime won’t result in trouble if you’ve been using drugs.

Embrace Support
Recognize you’ve endured emotional and physical trauma, and that seeking help is a courageous step. Whether you reach out to friends, family, or specialized support organizations, countless others have walked similar paths. You’re not alone in this journey. Support is available to uplift and guide you through it.

 

These are simply suggestions, and it’s essential to use what works best for you and your situation.

 

 

A Guide to Hookup App Lingo

This glossary is your dating app decoder.

[+] HIV-positive

+/- Interested in HIV-positive/negative

420-friendly Into marijuana

Admin Short for administer (injecting someone with drugs)

Anon Short for anonymous (a preference for not knowing personal details before connecting)

On Deck Having drugs for sale

BB (AKA Bareback, Raw, Breeding, Taking Loads) Condomless anal sex

DDF Drug- and disease-free

Discreet Closeted or in a relationship but looking

DL On the down low (closeted or in a relationship but looking)

DTF Down to f***

Host Hooking up at their place

Looking Interested in hooking up

NSA No strings attached (sex without emotional fidelity or future expectations)

Party Into drugs

PNP Party and Play (refers to drugs and sex)

T Tina (crystal meth)

Travel Not hooking up at their place

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Mon …

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Here’s the 101 so that you can keep yourself and those you love safe.

Words by David Russo

 

“Colon cancer is the battle we can win with early detection and regular screening.”

                                                                                                               — Unknown

DAP Health’s Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Silas Gyimah is fond of that inspiring citation of unknown derivation. As the founder of the Palm Springs-based, queer-led nonprofit Cheeky Charity — whose mission is to facilitate colorectal and anal cancer prevention, early detection, and support, with a focus on the young and LGBTQ+ populations — so am I.

“At every visit, we verify records to see if a patient is due for a screening,” Gyimah says. “If they are, we schedule them, focusing on FIT [fecal immunochemical test] and colonoscopies as our primary screening methods. This is a true implementation of the quote above.” 

Let’s delve more deeply into this largely preventable and curable disease.

 

Colorectal Health: Understanding and Prevention

Colorectal cancer (CRC), once predominantly a concern for older adults, is now increasingly affecting younger individuals. This shift necessitates a renewed focus. Understanding the nuances of colorectal health is vital for individuals of all ages.

 

Understanding Colorectal Cancer

CRC originates in the colon or rectum, part of the digestive system. It usually begins as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called polyps that form on the inside of the colon. Over time, some of these polyps can become colon cancers.

 

Symptoms To Be Aware Of

CRC might not cause symptoms right away, but if they occur, they may include changes in bowel habits, rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, persistent abdominal discomfort, a feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty completely, weakness or fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. It’s important to consult a health care provider if any of these symptoms are experienced.

 

Risk Factors

Certain factors increase the risk of developing CRC. These include older age, a personal or family history of CRC or colorectal polyps, inflammatory intestinal conditions, a low-fiber/high-fat diet, a sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and alcohol use. Genetics also play a role, with some inherited genes increasing the risk.

 

Prevention Strategies

Prevention of CRC starts with lifestyle changes. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains — and low in red and processed meats — can reduce risk. Regular physical activity is crucial. Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking, and moderating alcohol consumption are also recommended.

 

The Importance of Screening

Screening for CRC is one of the most powerful weapons for preventing the disease. It’s generally recommended to begin screening at age 45. Screening can find precancerous polyps, which can be removed before they turn into cancer. For people at higher risk, such as those with a family history, screening may be recommended earlier.

 

Navigating the Rising Trend in Young Adults

The rising incidence of CRC among young adults is a complex issue that involves a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. It’s important for young adults to:

  • Be aware of their family history.
  • Minimize known risks.
  • Incorporate healthy preventative habits into their lifestyle.
  • Regularly check for symptoms.
  • Discuss screenings with their health care providers if they have risk factors.

 

Conclusion

As our understanding of colorectal health evolves, it becomes clear that CRC is not just a concern for the elderly. The increase in cases among younger adults emphasizes the importance of awareness and proactive health measures across all age groups. Through lifestyle modifications, regular screening, and early detection, the impact of CRC can be significantly reduced.

 

Resources

Colorectal Cancer Alliance, colorectalcancer.org

American Cancer Society, cancer.org/cancer/types/colon-rectal-cancer

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal

Cheeky Charity, cheekycharity.org

 

In a partnership between DAP Health and Cheeky Charity — and in honor of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month — 50 eye-catching banners will be flown throughout downtown Palm Springs during March to help raise awareness and reduce stigma.

The Plight of the Migrant Farmworker

Portrait of Farmworker

The Plight of the Migrant Farmworker

 

The health care needs of an essential yet marginalized community require special attention that is long overdue.

As seen in Issue 4 of DAP Health magazine 

Words by Trey Burnette

Invisible Yet Indispensable: The Role of Migrant Farmworkers

Migrant field workers are one of society’s most indispensable people. They’re the frontline of not only the United States’ $162.7 billion agricultural industry but, arguably — considering their hands are the first to touch the harvested food consumed by virtually all Americans — of the nutrition and health care industries. 

The Health Crisis: Neglected Needs of a Marginalized Population

They’re also one of the most marginalized and neglected populations. A whopping 23% of farmworkers in the U.S. live in poverty. The average individual’s annual income falls between $12,500 and $14,000 ($17,500 to $19,999 for families). And neither does the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (which permits private sector employees to organize into trade unions, engage in collective bargaining, and go on strike) nor the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (which preserves the right to a minimum wage and “time-and-a-half” overtime pay for toiling more than 40 hours a week, plus prohibits the employment of minors in “oppressive child labor”) cover most workers. Beyond the low pay and lack of many workplace protections, health care is one of the most significant stressors for farmworkers. Some 25% of them depend on community health centers. 

Barriers to Wellness: Challenges Faced by Farmworkers

Of the 2.5 million farmworkers who live and work in the U.S., 500,000 to 800,000 reside in California. Their age falls between 14 and 61, and most have been working for 18 years. Some 34% of them identify as women. Another 400,000 are minors.

In 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that, of the 1,015,162 agricultural workers and their family members who received health services, the most common diagnoses were being overweight/obesity (25.5%), hypertension (11.4%), diabetes (9%), anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (5%), other mental health issues (7%), and asthma (2.5%.) But that isn’t the full scope of the health issues facing this community, because only 56% of U. S. field workers have health insurance. In California, that number drops to 37%. No matter where they are, many never seek help.

Expanding Healthcare Access: Medi-Cal's Impact on Undocumented Residents

Israel Ochoa manages DAP Health’s Centro Medico Oasis in the agricultural town of Thermal, just southwest of Mecca. He is the son of migrant farmworkers, and most of his days are spent serving farmworkers and their families. His assessment of his clinic’s patients aligns with the national statistics. He says access to affordable, nutritious food is a leading cause of their health issues. Fieldwork is arduous manual labor; the workers are up before sunrise and have to power through an excruciating workday. They rely on inexpensive sugary beverages like Gatorade, colas, and juices to stay hydrated and maintain energy, and eat a lot of processed food that “keeps” and can be eaten throughout their long workdays.

Furthermore, their children’s diets are not immune to their parents’ work schedules. Typically, 2.5 families live in one mobile trailer, and the kids are usually left with breakfast food they can make without having to turn on a stove — cereal, Pop-Tarts, or microwavable dishes. All eligible California children can get a no-cost breakfast and lunch at school, but obtaining those meals in the summer is difficult, if not impossible, because moms and dads can’t afford, or aren’t allowed, to take time off work.

Community Outreach: Bridging Gaps in Healthcare Education

Fear of being fired is also why workers don’t take personal or medical time off. They’re generally contracted, getting paid in two ways: by the hour ($15.50, plus 40 cents per box of product harvested and packed) or just by the box (about $4.25 per). Workers should get three sick days per season, but aren’t paid if they don’t work. Most avoid reporting job injuries for similar reasons. 

There are many other barriers to prosperity for farmworkers in the U.S. The lack of legal residence status is an obstacle. Nationally, 64% of workers are estimated to be undocumented — that figure is 75% in California — and most government programs, except for emergencies and sliding-scale payments, require documentation. Fortunately, on January 1, 2024, Medi-Cal expands full-scope health care for all income-eligible residents of California, regardless of immigration status. Obtaining preventive and routine care at a clinic will help people avoid emergency room visits and more severe illnesses. 

Empowering Through Education: Overcoming Educational Hurdles

Veronica Garcia is a care coordinator specialist regional coordinator and certified enrollment counselor at DAP Health. Alongside five siblings, she was raised in Coachella by her single farmworker mother, who also toiled at a citrus-packing plant. She does frontline community work and says her employer has an excellent outreach program. With the expanded Medi-Cal program, more people will be counseled and given health care. Outreach is critical because health workers can personally converse with farmworkers and clarify program misunderstandings. Many people think government programs, like Medi-Cal or the Medically Indigent Services Program, are debt services, so people hesitate to utilize them. 

Addressing Essential Needs: Affordable Housing and Nutrition Education

In addition to program education, Dr. Frank Figueroa — a councilmember for the city of Coachella who serves on DAP Health’s board of directors, as he did on Borrego Health’s board of trustees — says other fears about using programs can be laid to rest. He, whose grandparents and parents were farmworkers, states there’s the belief that those applying for permanent residence, work visas, or citizenship will be “flagged,” only to face negative consequences like losing rights they currently have, or could gain in the future. Undocumented workers are scared of deportation if they seek help. Applying DAP Health’s educational outreach to explain legal rights, enrollment, and using health care benefits will spur great progress in the health of this population. 

Education is also a challenge toward that progress. It’s estimated that 78% of farmworkers lack a high school diploma, with ninth grade being the average level of education. Just over 1% of these employees have a college degree, so there is a need to improve technology literacy.

Riverside County Supervisor Manny Perez, a son of migrant farmworkers, says that one of the many things that make DAP Health a superior federally qualified health center (FQHC) is its ability to provide affordable housing, a significant need for farmworkers as rents increase. He also strongly advocates for community clinics because they can address specific community needs like nutrition education through ancillary services. 

While Perez believes community health centers like Centro Medico Oasis are expertly poised to provide care for the rural poor, Ochoa insists finding health care providers to serve in remote locations such as Thermal is a challenge. All true. But it’s a challenge DAP Health is determined to meet as it endeavors to bring better wellness to this vital yet often-forgotten populace.

Engagement is the Cure for Isolation

Engagement Is The Cure For Isolation

 

Brothers of the Desert vice president Eric Davis talks about how the nonprofit is working to remedy disconnection and inequalities for gay black men in the Coachella valley

 

Words by Trey Burnette • Photo by Aaron Jay Young

 

There was a growing consciousness that gay Black men in the Coachella Valley felt isolated and disconnected from the community. The issue became the topic of conversation at a 2017 New Year’s Eve dinner party. “No one in the valley was doing anything to address the problem,” says Eric Davis. “So instead of complaining about it, why not create a solution?” The men did do something. They formed Brothers of the Desert (BOD), a nonprofit organization that provides a growing, local support network for gay Black men and their allies living here. 

Davis is BOD’s vice president. The group started with meetings on the second Saturday of every month at the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert in Palm Springs, where the men had a forum to discuss their lives and challenges. The African American population in the valley is less than 5%; gay Black men are only a fraction of that. Those gatherings continue today. 

In 2019, BOD held its first Wellness Summit. “It was a vision of President Tim Vincent,” says Davis, “and we have been able to implement that vision into reality for the last four years.” 

DAP Health became a sponsor the third year, and its partnership and sponsorship continued to grow. Another partnership the two organizations started three years ago involved DAP Health’s Desert AIDS Walk. BOD was able to walk as a group and raise money for the event. The organization also gained visibility with a speaking engagement and an event booth where they spoke with community members and provided educational and outreach information. 

Davis also happens to be the sales director and event planner for the local magazine GED (Gay Entertainment Directory.) His experience gives him wisdom and know-how when he asks himself, “How do we engage with the community to facilitate our ideas?” And they do engage. Besides the annual Wellness Summit held in November and participation in the AIDS Walk, BOD hosts the annual New Year’s Eve Legacy Gala, which serves as its largest annual fundraiser, celebrates Legacy honorees, and brings the community together to ring in the new year. 

That is the mission of BOD — to connect and engage gay Black men to the community. “If we don’t feel isolated and we feel like we can grow and strengthen,” says Davis, “we can move forward.”

DAP Health, invested in BOD’s growth, has been an active partner from a financial, physical, and encouragement standpoint, and has had opportunities to partner in BOD’s speaker series. When DAP Health needed messaging help with the LBGTQ+ community of color during the mpox outbreak in 2022, its leaders called on BOD. An mpox vaccine clinic was set up at the Wellness Summit in November 2022 at Margaritaville in Palm Springs. 

BOD’s primary concern is its community members’ mental health, which was most severely impacted by the isolation the men were experiencing. Beyond engagement in the Wellness Summit, the Legacy Gala, the speaker series, and monthly meetings, a partnership with DAP Health was formed at Greater Palm Springs Pride to create content that did not center around alcohol, was Black-centric, and appealed to allies. 

In the spirit of holistic wellness and philanthropy (part of its mission statement), BOD has been able to support the education of LGBTQ+ and Black students in the Coachella Valley with more than $10,000 in scholarships. Donations have also allowed the organization to establish an emergency fund for members needing critical financial help with rent, food, or even new tires for a vehicle. Underneath each act of giving, recipients understand, whatever the situation, that they are not alone — that there is a community available to them. Some recipients have been able to repay the fund once they’re back on their feet.

As BOD continues to grow and act on its purpose — to change the dynamics that produce isolation, disconnection, and inequities among gay Black men — the organization hopes to strengthen its partnerships with DAP Health and have a more significant presence in the Coachella Valley. It currently has approximately 125 members in the Palm Springs area, across the country, and in Canada, but it continues to do membership drives. A monthly newsletter, “Brother’s Drumbeat,” keeps the community abreast of current events and engages community leaders in conversation. 

For more information, please visit brothersofthedesert.org and follow the group on Insta @brothersofthedesert.

He Ain't Heavy

He Ain’t Heavy

Brothers of the Desert President Tim Vincent says the organization’s wellness summit allows gay Black men to connect to community and health

Words by Trey Burnette • Photo by Aaron Jay Young

The Coachella Valley likes to pride itself on diversity. However, attending community functions, programs, or gatherings could lead one to believe the desert community is less diverse than it considers itself to be.

At a 2017 New Year’s Eve gathering, a group of friends — all of whom were gay Black men — realized they all shared similar feelings of isolation and disconnection from much of the greater Palm Springs community. They knew men like them were out there, living productive lives, but they didn’t always see one another partaking in the many activities the valley had to offer. They felt isolated not only as individuals but also as a smaller community within the larger desert family.

Tim Vincent was one of those men at the party. To meet him, it’s hard to imagine he would feel isolated and disconnected from any community, but he says after moving to Palm Springs with his partner about six years ago, they had “the only people in the room” moments. At first, he didn’t notice it; he was used to being different. “But it can be hard being the only Black person in the room,” he says. Then he discovered others were experiencing the same feeling he and his partner were, and suspected there had to be more men he didn’t know out there facing the same feelings. 

The men were having a James Baldwin flash — the challenge was in the moment and the time was right. So, they acted by reaching out to the other gay African American men who felt isolated and disconnected, and formed Brothers of the Desert (BOD). Their mission was “to nurture and support gay Black men and allies through education, advocacy, social networking, volunteerism, and mentorship.” 

Today, Vincent serves as the president of the nonprofit, which was formalized as such in 2020. He has more than 30 years of experience working in the HIV and health care fields, including work with the CDC and the University of California San Francisco. His understanding of health care and patient engagement was beneficial as BOD grew and formed partnerships with DAP Health. 

Vincent explains that BOD started with monthly meetings where members could discuss concerns affecting them and the community. The leading members realized the community needed more than meetings, so they formed their first outfacing event, their Wellness Summit, in November of 2019, originally held at the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert. DAP Health became a sponsor in their third year.

“We were building and investing in the health and wellness of our community,” Vincent says. “We wanted to take a holistic and comprehensive approach, addressing community members’ physical, mental, spiritual, financial, and social health.” And they did. What the Wellness Summit offered was tailored to the needs of the Black community. They incorporated the intersection of being Black and gay and how the stressful effects of racism and homophobia affect the individual’s and community’s health. 

Four years later, the annual Wellness Summit has grown and is now held at Margaritaville Resort Palm Springs. DAP Health is still a sponsor, and the November 2022 summit had about 200 guests — twice the size of the first event. The Wellness Summit hosts speakers who are medical doctors, spiritual practitioners, business leaders, yoga instructors, and other experts offering education in their specialized fields. It creates a space where people feel comfortable asking wellness questions. Workshops are also available for guests to get hands-on experiences with wellness practices. Vincent has received positive feedback from attendees, and hopes the event will grow into a multi-day affair. 

BOD also provides a quarterly speaker series throughout the year. Guest lecturers are thought leaders and experts who give educational talks that support and maintain what is learned at the Wellness Summit. Participants can engage and discuss topics like mindfulness, systemic racism, microaggressions, and mental health for Black queer people. Furthermore, those chats also act as a gateway for BOD to steer members to DAP Health, where they can find similar wellness opportunities to the ones they learned about at the Wellness Summit. Acupuncture, yoga, massage, sex and intimacy groups, stress-management groups, and building-positive-life groups are just some of the opportunities attendees can take advantage of to maintain a holistic approach to wellness.

As the partnerships between BOD and DAP Health grow, Vincent hopes Black community members will deepen their knowledge that both organizations can help them find health resources and solutions.

For more information, please visit brothersofthedesert.org and follow the group on Insta @brothersofthedesert.

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.

9 Bad Habits for the Brain

9 Bad Habits for the BRAIN

For a more positive headspace, avoid these negative behaviors

Words by Dr. Jill Gover

We all want healthy aging, and most of us know a good diet and exercise are essential for a happy and healthy brain. That said, there are also a number of bad habits that can undermine cognition. Altering just one of the following nine bad habits can change how the brain works and help you age better, with reduced risk of dementia. Even people with memory problems can benefit from changing these harmful behaviors. Here are the nine bad habits that hurt your brain:

1. Accentuating the Negative

Ruminating on the negative has been linked to more amyloid and tau deposits (microscopic protein shards that decrease one’s capacity to think and remember) in the brain, which increases risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. Negative rumination is associated with a decline in cognition and memory in people over 55, and an increase in depressed mood. Negative self-talk arises from faulty thinking that overemphasizes the destructive aspect of a situation and neglects or ignores the positives. To counter these intrusive negative thoughts, therapists recommend writing a daily gratitude journal, practicing deep belly breathing techniques, learning cognitive behavioral therapy interventions to counter negative self-talk, and employing mindfulness strategies such as greeting the negative thought with “hello,” then telling it “goodbye.”

2.  Skipping Vaccines

A recent study of adults 65 and over who had received the flu vaccine showed they were 40% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. Those who received the pneumonia vaccine were 30% less likely to develop dementia. 

3. Drinking Sugary Beverages

A 2022 research study found that sugar-sweetened beverages (soft drinks, sweetened tea, fruit drinks, sports drinks, and energy drinks) were linked to a decline in cognitive functioning. It’s better to eat whole fruits instead of fruit juice. Sugar is not good for the brain. 

4. Maintaining Unhealthy Sleep Habits

Quality sleep is crucial to a sharp, productive mind. Creating a consistent sleep schedule allows for more restoration. It’s important to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. Too much caffeine, or a room not cool or dark enough, can cause sleep problems as well. In addition, untreated sleep apnea can lead to memory and cognitive disturbances due to a buildup of amyloid material in the brain.

5. Listening to Loud Music

In a study of 639 adults aged 36–90, mild hearing loss was associated with double the likelihood of developing dementia. If someone else standing next to you can hear your earbuds, they’re too loud! If you’re standing within three feet of someone and can’t hear them, the world around you is too loud. It’s a good idea to wear earplugs at concerts, and to remove yourself from loud environments when possible. Continuously subjecting your ears to excessively loud noise when you’re young may harm your hearing and increase your risk of developing cognitive impairments later in life.

6. Excessively Using Drugs That Block Acetylcholine

Tricyclic antidepressants, some bladder medications, and antihistamines can block production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Studies have found that higher cumulative use of these drugs is associated with dementia. If you regularly take several of these drugs, ask your doctor about the risk of anticholinergics and if you should explore alternative medications.

7. Having No Sense of Purpose

Having a reason to get up in the morning contributes to healthy aging, and is an essential element of good self-esteem. Researchers at Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago found that those who scored high on a purpose-in-life assessment were 2.4 times less likely to develop the illness. Whether you are young or old, working or retired, it’s important to explore and create a passion project. Look for new opportunities to engage in something meaningful to you. Volunteer. Travel. Deepen your relationships with others.

8. Not Flossing Your Teeth

Lackluster oral hygiene leads to buildup of bacteria in the mouth and inflammation of the gums, which untreated, can cause periodontitis. Poor periodontal health and tooth loss can increase risk of cognitive decline and dementia, as bacteria and inflammation can make their way from the mouth into the bloodstream, and eventually into the brain. Research has found that people missing several teeth had a 48% higher risk of cognitive impairment. 

9. Drinking Alcohol

In a 2022 study at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers found that even moderate drinking can cause reduced brain volume in older adults. A 50-year-old who went from one alcoholic drink a day to two drinks per day had changes in the brain equivalent to aging two years. Alcohol interferes with brain functions such as speech, memory, judgment, and balance. Cutting back on alcohol is a smart strategy for brain health. It’s a good idea to avoid the urge to drink when you feel sad, mad, tired, or bored. When you drink alcohol to get relief from unpleasant emotions, you inhibit the ability to process and resolve those feelings, which can lead to negative outcomes later. 

My professional advice: Eliminate as many of these bad habits as possible and you will improve your brain health and increase the likelihood of aging well!