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Brothers of the Desert: Our Rhythm, Our …

Our Rhythm, Our Power: Wellness Meeting Focuses on Black Gay Men’s Health  

Words by Lorenzo Taylor

The Brothers of the Desert know that “wellness” is much more than just taking care of physical health.  For the past four years this local Black gay men’s group has organized a one-day meeting with expert presentations on physical, spiritual, and mental health issues of importance to Black gay men.  The theme of this year’s Wellness Summit is “Our Rhythm, Our Power: Living Our Best Black Gay Lives” and it will be held on Saturday, November 12 at the Margaritaville Resort. The day-long event features innovative workshops and panel discussions on a diverse range of topics, such as spirituality, relationships, mental health, aging, trauma of racism, prevention, physical health, Black LGBTQ history, healthy sex, creative expression, financial planning, and more.   

The event has grown over the years and attracts participants locally and from around the country. Brothers of the Desert board president Tim Vincent says “We are so proud to bring these dynamic speakers together to share their expertise with our community. There will be opportunities to learn, connect and meet new people while attending the workshops.” Participants will get an opportunity to engage with the twenty featured speakers informally at a pre-Summit reception on Friday evening. 

Actor Alton Fitzgerald White, who starred in the Lion King on Broadway, will be the keynote speaker and will set an upbeat tone based on his best-selling book My Pride: Mastering Life’s Daily Performance.  Medical topics will be covered by four practicing physicians, Dr. Leo Moore, Dr. Alex del Rosario, Dr. Curly L. Bonds, and Dr. Cliff Wynne and there will be blood pressure checks and an onsite pop-up Monkeypox (MPX) vaccination clinic.  But the Summit will go far beyond these physical concerns.  A favorite Summit speaker, Bishop Yvette Flunder, will return to electrify attendees with her spirit-filled affirmation of LGBTQ+ lives within the Christian faith. There will also be opportunities to choose workshops that explore how touch, music, and writing can heal the wounded spirit. Black gay novelist Larry Duplechan and other published authors will discuss how expressing life experiences through writing has been transformative and healing.  Financial health topics will be covered by Chauncey Thompson of Barton CPA, in response to past participants’ desire to reduce stress around having adequate resources for living and retirement.  

DAP Health is once again an official sponsor of the Summit.  It will have staff at an information table at the meeting and has partnered with Brothers of the Desert to provide a little taste of the Summit in their Palm Springs Pride pavilion on November 6th.  Motivational speaker Dr. Stephan Scoggins and spiritual leader Tony Bradford will do mini-presentations to discuss boosting one’s self-esteem and developing one’s own spiritual practice. Tim Vincent says “We appreciate this opportunity to showcase some of the talented speakers who bring a different life experience to their work and to strengthen our enduring collaboration with DAP Health.” 

Attendance at the Summit is free and open to all who have an interest in Black gay men’s health.  In addition, some of the Summit speakers are offering special live performances to the community during the weekend.  On Friday, November 11 comedic actor Ralph Cole Jr. and soul/folk/reggae singer Nhojj will perform at the Palm Springs Cultural Center and on Sunday, November 13 Alton Fitzgerald White will sing Broadway and Disney songs in a concert at the Palm Springs United Methodist Church.  Full details, as well as registration for the Summit and for the community events can be found on their website www.brothersofthedesert.org. 

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. 

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.”  

INDIO ARTISTS HELP MAKE DAP HEALTH’S N …

INDIO ARTISTS HELP MAKE DAP HEALTH’S NEW SEXUAL WELLNESS CLINIC A WELCOMING, SAFE SPACE 

Words by Ellen Bluestein 

May 30, 2022 

When clients arrive at DAP Health’s new sexual wellness clinic in Indio, the first thing they will see is a colorful mural in the waiting room.  Designed by Indio artists Cece Cruz and Evelyn Sofia Rivera, together known as Mujeres Murals, the full-scale artwork creates a warm and familiar environment to help alleviate the anxiety of those seeking services. 

The clinic, located at 81-719 Doctor Carreon Blvd, Suite D in Indio, is set to open on July 11, 2022, and will operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. It will offer testing for HIV, hepatitis C, and sexually transmitted infections including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. The clinic will also provide pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). Case management and connections to additional resources will also be available. Testing and treatment are confidential and free of charge. 

To celebrate the opening of the new clinic, DAP Health will host a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, July 16, 2022, at 10:00 a.m., with a tour of the facility. All are invited to attend. 

“We started to do planning a year before the COVID pandemic to address unmet needs in our community and to respond to where we're finding new HIV cases and why new infections are happening to certain members of our community,” said CJ Tobe, director of community health and sexual wellness services. “[We] identified that there's such an unmet need for sexual wellness services, specifically surrounding Indio... The data showed new HIV cases located in the east valley. Latinos with lower income and under the age of 39 are most at risk. So, everything just made sense for us to respond to the need by opening a clinic there.” 

“What was happening is that[clients] weren't doing routine testing, Tobe continued. “They were coming in for treatment which means they're having symptoms. They had to be seen right away. So, it wasn't just regular asymptomatic testing. We also identified through trends that the majority of new HIV cases were in people living under 200% of the federal poverty level. So, we also knew then that there was a cost barrier that may be preventing people in our community from accessing a clinic.” 

At the new Indio clinic, “the patient will be able to come in, they'll be able to see our clinicians... and then they'll be able to get their medication right there too,” said Tobe. “They don't have to go across the street or down the road and maybe run into their cousin or, you know, something like that.” 

Another barrier to service is the discomfort that often accompanies talk of sexuality. “There is a lot of stigma and shame attached to sexual wellness specifically in the Latino community in Indio,” said Tobe. “We're hoping, when we open the doors, that we start reaching the community and establishing trust with people.”   

Part of establishing that trust included enlisting Cruz and Rivera to create the serene scene on the walls of the clinic’s waiting room. “I think once the community learns that Cece and her team created this beautiful mural in the clinic, that it will be welcoming and representative of the community, [it will start] building that trust,” said Tobe. 

While Tobe picked the color palette and some elements for the wall-sized painting, Cruz and Rivera had artistic license to design the rest.  “Both of us are very grateful for how much freedom we've had with this mural,” said Rivera.  “We've been really appreciative of the fact that CJ has been completely open to the ideas and our styles.” 

The scene features a wide range of colors – from browns and blues to pinks and purples - that can often be found in a desertscape. “It's not super bright. It stands out, but it's not aggressive,” said Rivera. Added Cruz, “It’s warm but it’s not dull.  It’s not muted.” 

The overall design concept was a collaborative process. “I really wanted to incorporate that feeling of not just the desert with the fields and the community and the people but also that feeling of nurturing with the tree and the Mother Earth,” said Cruz.  “And so that was my idea of the part that I had sketched.” 

“I really like cactuses,” added Rivera. “I feel like they're a symbol of home. I think that [they are] especially familiar.” 

“We put together sketches but then we got community input as to which sketch, they wanted to go with,” Rivera explained. “We submitted three different sketches and then put them online and asked, ‘okay, which ones do you guys like better? Or do you want them all included?’ And everybody decided they wanted all of them. So now we've done a mixture of the three.” 

Connecting with community is key to how both Cruz and Rivera work. “I think the rapport that we've been able to build with the community, throughout our mural painting is that people enjoy visually what it is that we've created so it's not going to be taken likely, Rivera said. “They trust us, and we trust them. It's mutual.” 

“When I think about the mural...my hopes are that people see it and they feel just warm and welcomed and peace and it's familiar. Like whatever fear and anxieties anybody might be feeling, when they see it, they're like, ‘oh, okay,’ and kind of take a deep breath and say ah,” Cruz said demonstrating a stress-releasing exhalation. 

“We wanted it to feel very welcoming,” she added. “You walk in and you're just like, oh, okay, I feel good here.” 

Indio artists Cecelia Cruz and Evelyn Sogia Rivera, designed the new community mural in the Indio Sexual Wellness Clinic. 

Wellness as a Way of Life

Wellness as a Way of Life

THE WELLNESS CENTER AT DAP HEALTH OFFERS MORE THAN TWO DOZEN OPTIONS.

Words by Lawrence Karol

DAP Health’s mission is to enhance and promote the health and well-being of the community. But there’s a lot more behind that effort than just providing primary and specialty medical care. From acupuncture to urban yoga, DAP Health has a whole host of wellness programs that address every aspect of its patients’ lives — whether it’s physical, spiritual, emotional, or intellectual — and help patient health outcomes.

“Our wellness services offer a spectrum of complementary and alternative wellness programming,” says Cory Lujan, DAP Health’s client wellness manager. “Our goal is to support conventional and routine medical care. Services such as yoga, chair massage, and acupuncture specifically help with pain management and stress, anxiety, and a host of other ailments.”

Harvard Health Publishing, which is the consumer health education division of Harvard Medical School, notes that yoga, in particular, “promotes physical health in multiple different ways. Some of them derive from better stress management. Others come more directly from the physical movements and postures in yoga, which help promote flexibility and reduce joint pain.”

At DAP Health, Kristin Olson’s Urban Yoga Studio is located in the main building. (Olson has owned her yoga studio for

decades and employs many yoga instructors.) There are three weekly classes that are ideal for beginners or those with decreased mobility. The classes are free for DAP patients, while there is a fee for the general public.

Despite being less well-known than yoga, DAP Health’s sound bath classes have also developed a devoted following. Like yoga, sound bath sessions can help reduce anxiety and stress — and, despite their name, they do not involve water or a bathtub. Lujan explains that sound bath is a music meditation where the attendees are immersed in the sound of various frequencies of singing bowls. “Our Reiki specialist, Sarah Stern, leads the sound bath and uses multiple instruments, including gongs, rain drums, and chimes.”

Speaking of Reiki, this Japanese energy-healing technique is another patient wellness program that helps with stress reduction, relaxation, and also promotes healing. “It’s very popular among those who are into spirituality,” says Lujan. “The Reiki practitioner does not touch her patient. She uses energy healing to realign the body’s energy. Patients usually report the same feelings as that of meditation and they come out feeling spiritually moved and some are in tears.”

If all these wellness programs leave you primed to take on more activities, be sure to check out the wide variety of other events offered at DAP Health — everything from a knitting group to a book club to the Soles on Sunrise walking group.

For questions about DAP Health wellness services, contact the Wellness Center Administrative Assistant at 760.323.2118.

Transcendental Meditation at DAP Health

Transcendental Meditation at DAP Health 

March 14, 2022

As part of its ethos to treat the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – DAP Health is now offering free Transcendental Meditation (TM), courses.  TM, a simple mental technique, has been shown to improve awareness, memory, and creativity while reducing tension and anxiety. By reducing deep-rooted stress and fatigue, it increases energy and resiliency, and improves overall health. 

The course is free to patients and employees of DAP Health, and will be offered monthly, consists of four one-hour lessons held over four consecutive days. The first session is a one-to-one meeting with the teacher followed by three subsequent group classes.  All classes must be attended.  No prior experience, equipment, or clothing is required.

It's a simple, natural, effortless technique. It’s very practical,” said Thomas Roth, Director of the David Lynch Foundation HIV Wellness Initiative, who is leading the program at DAP Health.  “We work it into our daily routine: 20 minutes in the morning before breakfast, 20 minutes in the evening before dinner and go about your day.”  Roth, who has been meditating since he was 13 years-old, added, “Forget that you meditated. It's not like we need to remember, ‘oh, I should be kinder because I'm a meditator.’  It's not like that at all. We just do it, and we forget about it and the results come naturally.”

While many forms of meditation focus on mindfulness, TM goes beyond that to take the brain to a very quiet place which expands consciousness. “Everybody knows that we're using 10% of our potential,” said Roth. “So, this takes us to those quieter states of our mind, where we can tap into that creativity and intelligence and bring that out into our daily life.” 

Roth continued, “The other thing that's fantastic is the side effects; what goes on in the body. When the mind becomes quieter and quieter, correspondingly, because of that mind-body connection, the body attains, a very deep state of rest.”  According to Roth, the level of relaxation that is achieved can be twice as deep as the deepest sleep during the night. “The result of that is release of stress. Rest is the antidote to stress. None of us are getting enough rest. I can say that as a rule,” Roth said.  “So, this adds a very powerful, yet simple and effortless technique to attain a deep state of rest and eliminate stress.”

Scientific research backs up TM’s claim’s of reducing tension and increasing resiliency. “There's been 350 peer reviewed, published scientific studies on transcendental meditation. It's by far the most thoroughly researched process of personal development on the planet,” said Roth.  “It's something that's substantiated by research.”

“We give the body deep rest and naturally, anxiety is reduced. Tension is reduced. All the symptoms of stress are reduced,” Roth said. “At the same time, what it creates is an anchor in that quietness inside. We don't feel like we're a football being thrown around in life.  It’s a deep anchor in our own consciousness and that gives us more perspective. It gives us stability and little time to ourselves to re-energize.”

To sign up or learn more about DAP Health’s Transcendental Mediation program, contact Thomas Roth at Troth@TM.org or call or text 415-547-0486.

How Revivals is prioritizing people expe …

How Revivals is prioritizing people experiencing homelessness  

When Revivals and DAP Health decided to partner with Martha’s Village and Kitchen to provide clothing and supplies to people experiencing homelessness, they knew there was a need.  

But the demand caught them by surprise.  

The 2020 Riverside County Point-In-Time count suggests there were close to 200 unsheltered individuals in Palm Springs, but advocates for people experiencing homelessness say the true numbers might be double or triple that number. 

Martha’s Village and Kitchen is one of the largest providers of homelessness and impoverished services in Riverside County with over 8,000 people in need passing through its doors yearly.  

 Over the summer, Indio-based Martha’s Village opened The Palm Springs Access Center, providing wraparound services for people experiencing homelessness. These services include helping individuals obtain permanent and supportive housing, health, disability, Social Security, and other benefits, along with computer training, and assistance filling out job applications. 

Dane Koch, the director of retail, says it was an easy decision to partner with Martha’s Village. Revivals is part of DAP Health, an advocacy-based healthcare organization committed to removing roadblocks to human potential.  

Homelessness leads to increased feelings of uncertainty, vulnerability, and isolation. Homeless people experience great physical and mental stress. Many homeless people do not have access to medicine or regular physical or mental health care treatment. They tend to be hospitalized more often than people with homes.  

DAP Health believes that housing is healthcare and through a partnership with Coachella Valley Housing Coalition is breaking ground to begin construction of the 61-unit special needs affordable housing development known as Vista Sunrise II.  The Vista Sunrise II development will be constructed on the DAP Health campus at Sunrise and Vista Chino in Palm Springs.  This new development consists of studios and one-bedroom units for individuals and families who experience chronical illnesses, physical or mental disabilities, or those who are homeless.  

Martha’s Village provides vouchers for Revivals to its clients, who then come into a Revivals store to pick up necessities and clothing. Parents can shop at the store with their children enjoying the same retail experience as every other shopper in the store. A client can have up to four vouchers each year.  

Kris Fisher, the senior store coordinator at the Revivals in Palm Springs, says Revivals anticipated 15 clients per week. Instead, it was 50. 

“The response has been pretty overwhelming. I don’t think we expected to get the number of clients that we did,” Fisher says. “But I’m glad the program is being utilized and that we can be a resource.”  

George Sinatra, the senior director of development for Martha’s Village and Kitchen, shared two stories that illustrate the impact of this partnership.  

An elderly woman who had eye surgery needed protective eyewear.  

She came to Martha’s Village wearing disposable sunglasses. “We were able to get new sunglasses to her at Revivals that day,” Sinatra says. “That was super helpful.” 

Sinatra remembers a family of four who was living out of a car. They had come into Palm Springs looking for help.  

“They had one bag of clothing between the four of them that included undergarments and everything,” Sinatra explains 

The family came into Palm Springs, where they were able to get a shower and receive clothing from Revivals for the mother, father, and two young children under six. Then they were moved to Martha’s Indio location. 

“They are doing amazing and have been successful here going through Martha’s programs. They’re getting ready to get employment locally and then they’ll be able to move into their own home as a family.”  

 Koch says he is proud to be part of the new program. “People talk about the problem of homelessness a lot, but we see people, not problems.  It’s important to prioritize people experiencing homelessness and it just makes you feel good about coming to work every day, knowing you are making a difference.”  

How DAP Health improves physical wellbei …

How DAP Health improves physical wellbeing by addressing oral health

When sitting in Dr. Ryan Yamashiro’s dental chair at DAP Health, Robert Coughlin says he has gotten emotional enough to cry. 

Coughlin laughed when asked how many times he had cried in the dental chair.  

“I think he knows who I am,” Coughlin said. “I just get so overwhelmed sitting in that chair.”  

The emotion Coughlin feels is not fear, apprehension of drillings, or root canals. Living with HIV for decades, Coughlin said his treatments at dentist offices were degrading, whether it was having the room covered in plastic or being refused services when they saw his HIV status.  

It is different when Coughlin sees Dr. Yamashiro at DAP Health.  

“They just come into the examination room with so much compassion and understanding,” Coughlin says. “I expected to be treated as a pariah with my HIV status as I had been with (past) dentists before. I just get emotional when they treat me with such kindness.” He explains that there is not a hint of judgment anywhere. And because of that he feels cared for. 

Coughlin says his oral health was in bad shape when he first came to DAP Health because of years living with addiction. Today, Dr. Yamashiro has Coughlin’s teeth and gums in much better shape. 

There have been bumps along the way. During the COVID lockdown, Coughlin broke his dentures. Dr. Yamashiro found a way to see Coughlin, addressing the dentures and working on getting him a new set.  

In contrast to Coughlin’s emotional expressions of gratitude, Dr. Yamashiro has a different take. Yamashiro says he is just doing his job.  

“It’s a real old-school way of seeing it, but that’s just how I was brought up. I am not trying to get any brownie points or anything like that. I’m just here to do what I’m trained to do,” Yamashiro explains.  

Dr. Yamashiro takes an honest approach when talking with his patients because he believes that a patient’s oral health has everything to do with self-care. 

It is not unusual to see a new patient 10 times in the same year. “I’ll ask ‘Are you going to keep brushing your teeth after I restore them,’” Yamashiro says. “I just want to know how dedicated they are to helping me because the other 355 days they aren’t in my chair requires them to brush and floss.” 

Yamashiro credits Kimberly Tollison for the dental clinic. Tollison came to DAP Health from a private practice 13 years ago. In 2021, the clinic saw 4,122 visits. The staff consists of two full-time dentists, a full-time hygienist, two full-time receptionists, two registered dental assistants and Tollison, the office manager.  

Case managers will screen a patient and complete a dental referral to the clinic as the clinic only takes Medi-Cal (non-HIV) or qualified Ryan White patients. Patients that are not insured can qualify for the sliding scale for discounted services.  

Currently, the dental clinic is closed to new patients while DAP Health works on hiring additional dental employees. Prior to COVID, Tollison said there were talks about expanding the service, which would include adding chairs to the current clinic and opening a satellite clinic.  

Tollison says she sees firsthand the need for a dental clinic for HIV positive patients.  

“It is refreshing to be able to offer much needed dental care to our HIV+ community and also service adults with Medi-Cal,” Tollison said. “In my private practice, our HIV+ patients would experience quite a bit of stigma, and it’s a pleasure to offer dental care at DAP Health in a stigma-free environment.” 

While Yamashiro downplays the impact he has on his patients' lives, he does have a simple philosophy to provide care: Treat them as he would treat a family member.  

DAP Health rolls out harm reduction prog …

DAP Health rolls out harm reduction program to provide care for people living with addiction 

Contact: Leighton Ginn                                  
Public Relations Specialist  
(760) 567-2983  

lginn@daphealth.org.    

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   

Program approved Jan. 10, 2022 by the California Department of Public Health 

This Spring, DAP Health will unveil its harm reduction program that will have two components. First, Overdose prevention and secondly a Syringe Services Program (SSP) that will include health services and behavioral health support to combat the rise in preventable overdoses and the increase in new HIV cases.  

The multi-layered program will focus on education for the community, HIV and Hepatitis C testing, distribution and collection of syringes and referrals to support folks through their addiction journey.  

Additional services to be provided: Naloxone/Narcan to reverse overdose and prevent death, and Fentanyl test strips for testing drugs before use to decrease likelihood of overdose.  

In the latest preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 100,000 people in the U.S. died from overdoses during the 12-month period from April 2020 through April 2021. (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/drug-overdose-data.htm) 

In Riverside County, there has been an 800 percent increase in fentanyl-related deaths since 2016, according to Rivco.org.  (https://www.rivco.org/news/riverside-county-committee-combat-fentanyl-abuse).  

Palm Springs has an overdose death rate 300 percent higher than the state average.  

Palm Springs Police Department Chief Andy Mills was able to review the harm reduction program and was impressed with how complete it is.  

“It’s important to remember the dynamics that go into a program like this,” Mills says. “That’s what excites me. Not only is DAP Health looking at helping people, but genuinely helping people so they are not destructive to themselves or our community.” 

DAP Health is only the second state certified Syringe Services Program (SSP) in Riverside County, which is the 10th most populated county in the United States.  

Because of the rising numbers, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Bacerra says the federal government supports harm reduction, which includes direct support and care to people who actively struggle with substance misuse.  

“DAP Health will begin deepening our relationship with people living with addiction by adding a harm reduction approach to our first-aid kit of solutions,” says C.J. Tobe, the Director of Community Health and Sexual Wellness. “We will do this without stigma or judgment because you cannot treat someone who does not trust you. Harm reduction is an important tactic in DAP Health’s ongoing work to end the HIV epidemic.  Work that begins with meeting folks where they are.” 

Education  

  • Overdose prevention  
  • Safer injecting  
  • Risk reduction counseling  
  • Education to community partners  

Testing  

  • Free HIV/HCV testing  
  • Fentanyl strips for testing drugs before use to decrease likelihood of overdose  

Equipment  

  • Naloxone/Narcan to reverse overdose and prevent death  
  • Phone number and email to DAP Health for the community to report used syringes that need to be picked up and disposed of, or to request education related to harm reduction strategies at HarmReduction@DAPHealth.org or 760 992-0453. 
  • New syringes and intake/dispose of used syringes  
  • New injecting supplies  
  • Safer sex kits  
  • Safer smoking kits   

Referrals To 

  • Substance use counselors  
  • Outpatient Drug Free program DAP Health 
  • Local recovery and treatment centers  
  • DAP Health’s peer support specialist  
  • Early Intervention Specialist (EIS) for anyone with HIV and/or Hepatitis C for treatment  
  • Insurance enrollment and connection to health care and other social support services  
  • DAP Health’s Sexual Wellness Clinic (Orange Clinic) for STI testing and/or Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)  
  • Food and housing    

 

About DAP Health 

DAP Health is an advocacy-based health center in Palm Springs, Calif., serving more than 10,000 patients, offering medical and mental health care, STI testing and treatment, dentistry, pharmacy, and lab services. A variety of wraparound services enable patients to experience optimal health, including social services, support groups, alternative therapies, and other wellness services. Excellent HIV care is provided by the largest team of specialized clinicians in the area.     

DAP Health opened one of California’s first COVID clinics and hotlines to offer screening, testing, and treatment. DAP Health also is working to address the social determinants of health that are causing negative health outcomes during this pandemic, like food and housing insecurity, joblessness, isolation, and access to ongoing healthcare. 

DAP Health’s sexual health clinic offers STI testing and treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) testing. DAP Health has earned Charity Navigator’s highest rating for the twelfth consecutive year — landing DAP in the top 6% of nonprofits rated. The distinction recognizes that DAP Health exceeds industry standards in terms of financial health, accountability, and transparency.     

Visit www.daphealth.org to learn more.  

New DAP Health Sexual Wellness clinic op …

DAP Health expands Sexual Wellness in Indio, CA opening new clinic opening June 2022 and MISTR partnership expand the reach of health care services  

DAP Health made two significant moves to expand free testing and treatment to the East Valley by signing a lease to a new facility in Indio and partnering with MISTR to provide virtual PrEP services statewide.  

On Nov. 29, DAP Health signed a lease for a building in Indio to open a sexual wellness clinic.  The organization hopes to open the new space by June 2022.  

Free services will include STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) testing and treatment (gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis), HIV prevention (pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP; post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP), and HIV and hepatitis C testing.  

If anyone tests positive for HIV, the sexual wellness clinic DAP Health will provide that person with rapid start medication and linkage to care, an essential step in reducing new HIV infections and improving the health outcomes of the person living with HIV. While the cost of ongoing HIV treatment is not part of the free services, DAP Health offers financial assistance.  

In 2019, 25% of all HIV-positive test results at DAP Health were Hispanic men. “Many folks were driving from the East Valley to Palm Springs to utilize DAP Health’s sexual wellness services. We noticed not only a high volume of patients but most of those patients were already having symptoms of an STI or testing positive for HIV,” says C.J. Tobe, the Director of Community Health and Sexual Wellness at DAP Health. Tobe believes free testing and treatment, with the convenience of not having to drive a great distance, will encourage more people to get tested.   

DAP Health is changing the system to meet the person. Since eliminating the cost barriers in its Orange Clinic that houses its sexual wellness services in July 2021, DAP Health has seen ongoing STI increases while HIV has remained the same, according to Tobe.   

DAP Health knew access to these services would be vital while social activities increased.    

In the first four months:    

  • The Orange Clinic saw over 2,000 patients.   
  • On average, DAP Health is seeing 170 more patients per month than when patients were being charged for services.    
  • The clinic started the same number of people on PrEP during the four months than they did in the prior 12 months.    
  • There were over 50 appointments for rapid start to ensure people newly diagnosed with HIV, or returning to care, have access to HIV medications within 7 days.    

“We are proactively protecting the community’s health,” Tobe said. “Eliminating the cost barrier has proven to increase access to folks in our community for PrEP and STI services.”   

“One of those barriers is cost. DAP Health learned many people testing positive for STIs and HIV had limited incomes. For them, the prior $25 fee for STI testing and PrEP was an impediment to care. DAP Health decided to remove that cost barrier to improve health equity.”  

In addition to the new Indio site, DAP Health now offers PrEP services virtually through MISTR, a discrete online service that provides access to PrEP, the once-daily pill regimen that prevents HIV. With its secure online platform, MISTR can determine if an individual is a candidate for PrEP and makes PrEP completely free. Moreover, MISTR manages all paperwork and back and forth with insurance companies and the various patient assistance programs, creating a seamless experience for the end-user.   

With the new clinic and the partnership with MISTR, DAP Health looks to make its services available to more people.  

DAP Health continues to make sexual wellness a priority by providing more people with more access to health services. It also continues to expand its ability to treat more people.   

"We welcome all people, period. And now we are eliminating more barriers to access sexual wellness services," Tobe said. “We are changing the system to meet the person. We continue to do this; First by eliminating the cost barrier and now opening a free sexual wellness clinic to people most impacted by HIV/STIs. That is health equity.”  

For more information, visit https://mistr.com/dap/ or https://mistr.com/dap-sistr/