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DAP Health Gets Ready to Walk, Out Loud

DAP Health Gets Ready to Walk, Out Loud  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAP HEALTH RESPONDS TO THE MONKEYPOX GLO …

DAP HEALTH RESPONDS TO THE MONKEYPOX GLOBAL HEALTH EMERGENCY 

August 22, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAP HEALTH ACHIEVES GUIDESTAR GOLD STATU …

DAP HEALTH ACHIEVES GUIDESTAR GOLD STATUS 

August 22, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAP Health’s New Harm Reduction Progra …

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

Words by Ellen Bluestein 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAP Health Update on the Monkeypox Virus

DAP Health Update on the Monkeypox Virus  

July 18, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAP Health Acknowledged as an LGBTQ+ Hea …

DAP Health Acknowledged as an LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Top Performer 

June 27, 2022

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation has released its 15th anniversary edition of their Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) and DAP Health is proud to announce that we've earned an “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Top Performer” designation. Among the 906 health care facilities that actively participated in the HEI survey, only 251 earned the Top Performer designation. 

The HEI 2022 report states that, "No one facing health concerns should also have to worry about receiving inequitable or substandard care because of their LGBTQ+ status." And in a press release, Tari Hanneman, Director of Health & Aging at The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), notes that “The Healthcare Equality Index, at its core, strives to ensure LGBTQ+ people are protected and affirmed by their healthcare providers and feel safe seeking services. Our HEI active participants are truly pioneering the healthcare industry by implementing robust, comprehensive LGBTQ+ inclusive policies that hopefully, because of their work, will become standard practice.” 

Carl Baker, DAP Health's Contracts and Program Monitor, explains that the HEI rating demonstrates to the general population, and in particular the LGBTQ community, that DAP Health is a safe space to receive medical, dental, and behavioral health services. "By 'Safe Space' I mean LGBTQ [with a strong focus on our transgender family] individuals will find a staff that is trained and, in large part, also members of the LGBTQ community." In addition, he adds that the HEI rating indicates that a clinic is free from judgement and stigma. "In general, people are hesitant to speak freely to their health care providers. However, if a patient is comfortable and feels welcome and accepted, they are more likely to follow their treatment plans, return for follow-up visits, and take their medications on a regular schedule. Also, when dealing with sexually transmitted diseases, it is imperative that patients are in a judgement-free zone and are not afraid to discuss their sexual behaviors, including drug and alcohol use." 

Since the survey is also employee focused, it looks at a facility's number of LGBTQ staff members, their training and employee benefits, as well as companywide celebrations and information on LGBTQ events and Pride. 

To determine which health care facilities are ultimately worthy of an LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equity Top Performer designation the HEI evaluates and scores the facilities on detailed criteria that fall under four central pillars: Foundational Policies and Training; LGBTQ+ Patient Services and Support; Employee Benefits and Policies; and Patient and Community Engagement. 

Baker explains that survey points "are awarded for compliance for the existence of policies, staff training, staff involvement with LGBTQ awareness events, and ability to refer patients and clients for ancillary services in a welcoming environment. For example, for all of our referral services—services we do not perform onsite: dermatology, OB/GYN, orthopedics, etc.—we require the third party specialists to have an open and inclusive practice, as well as indicated in our Memorandum of Agreement with each third party referral. We upload policies and proof of training to HRC." 

 While DAP Health is honored to receive an LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Top Performer designation, we're equally proud that, on a daily basis, our staff is always looking for ways to continue to improve health care equality for everyone in our community.  

The Coming Out Experience

The Coming Out Experience Group

Words by Lawrence Karol

June 13, 2022

Every LGBTQ person who comes out has a very personal story to tell about the path they followed and the reactions to their revelation. It's no surprise then that the individuals who participate in the DAP Health Wellness Center's weekly group "The Coming Out Experience" share some strikingly intimate and heartfelt stories. 

"There are four things that I talk a great deal about," says Steve Rossetti, DAP Health's Career Development Specialist, who started the group in Fall 2020 and is its facilitator. "Living with shame, living with guilt, feeling less than, and living with fear, because you have to kind of understand why people stay in the closet and why they're fearful to come out." 

"I think it's valuable for other people to hear that every time someone comes out it doesn't necessarily mean hatred or rejection," he adds. "We want to kind of understand why did Mom and Dad Smith respond so favorably, [while] Mom and Dad Jones responded so negatively? And so we try to understand the whole cornucopia of what precipitates that." 

Rossetti usually starts with a primary question that sets the tone for the meeting and is often correlated to a topic that was discussed the prior week—the composition of the group varies, but there's also a core circle of people who've been participating since its founding. "Because [the questions are] open ended, they kind of trigger a lot of emotion for people so there's additional information that they want to start with the next week," he says. At the same time, he always tells members that discussing a particular question from their perspective is completely optional and that no one should ever feel they have to respond. 

He adds that just hearing and understanding other people's stories can, in and of itself, have a very profound, helpful, and supportive effect upon the group's members. "I'll use the term that I use a lot, [it's about] finding your tribe. And I think for gay people, historically, when you have found other gay people, it normalizes who you are." 

"It's a powerful group," adds Rossetti. "It's really very cool, and I'm very excited to be able to facilitate. It just sometimes amazes me, just the whole sense of reflection and the big purpose is, 'How do I move forward and live happily and authentically.' That's the main catalyst or objective of this group." 

If you’re interested in joining The Coming Out Experience group, please contact Steve Rosetti at SRosetti@daphealth.org or 760-322-6378.  

DRESS FOR WHO YOU ARE

DRESS FOR WHO YOU ARE

Words by Ellen Bluestein

June 13, 2022

At DAP Health, professionalism is paramount. For some of our employees, this requires wearing medical scrubs for their jobs. For others, it’s about dressing to represent the organization or for comfort to better serve patients. “I feel like when you’re fashionable and you look good and you’re professional, people respect you,” said Karen Zelaya, an endoscopic nurse, who has worked at DAP Health for five years. Housing Case Manager Alexis Gonzalez Ramos expressed a similar sentiment. “Every work environment is guided by a specific mission and values,” he said. “I have always valued decency, professionalism, and fashions that significantly match my current work environment.” As Gonzalez Ramos often interacts with community partners outside of DAP Health, it is important for him to represent the organization in the best possible light. “The first impression always determines the business’s success, which starts with the dress code,” he said. “So, I tend to keep my fashion simple yet trendy.”

While some may think wearing scrubs is anything but trendy, that’s not true for Zelaya. “I’m one of those people who dresses up her scrubs,” she said. “I like colors. I feel like they make people happy. They make me happy. I’ll wear hot pink Nikes with lime green scrubs. It doesn’t have to match. It’s the mood.”

Mood is exactly what plays into six-year DAP Health Clinical Site Specialist Chris Bates’s fashion choices when he gets dressed for work in the morning. “I use fashion as an extension of emotion,” he said. “When I’m feeling bright and cheery, I’ll wear something that’s more colorful, like yellow or orange. If I’m kind of feeling a little gloomy, maybe it’d be like a neutral color, like a navy blue or gray, but it’s just an extension of my emotions and how I’m feeling that particular day.”

Newly hired DAP Health Chiropractor Alyssa Romero concurs. “I believe that what we wear is a direct reflection of how we feel,” she said. “So oftentimes, you’ll see me wearing cute, casual, comfy clothes because I can move in them. I can perform my job duties in them, and it makes me feel good.” Romero added: “I like to switch it up with different colors and different patterns. The thing about being a chiropractor, we’re always moving, always kind of down in a squat position or doing something to try and adjust people and get them moving. So, my style is definitely a mixture of professional and practical in the workplace.”

But in their free time, it’s so long to scrubs and hello to hiking boots and heels. “I’m in scrubs most of the time,” said Jennifer Mata Alanis, a medical assistant in the primary transgender care and HIV clinic who has been with DAP Health for three years. “As a transgender, Latino female, I’m really proud of who I am. And while it all depends on where she’s going, fashion, she said, “helps you express yourself, especially being transgender.” Expressing his identity through fashion is also important to Gonzalez Ramos. “I tend to mix a bit of feminine and masculine aspects in my fashion,” he said, “This is an expression of the appreciation of both genders and to confuse the audience about my gender. “It will not be a surprise to find me in a pink-colored outfit because I have quite a lot of them. But I know how to play around with the feminine and masculine colors to create a perfectly blended outfit.” Romero also doesn’t like her fashion choices to solely define her. “If you had to choose a Spice Girl, I would definitely say that I’m more Sporty Spice,” said Romero. “But I’m also not afraid to wear a super cute pair of heels and jeans, or a cute bodysuit... It kind of depends on if I’m being active or if I’m going out on a Friday night.”

When Zelaya goes out, she opts for fitted clothes and body-conscious fashion that accentuates her curves and shows her figure, along with sandals with kitten heels and the occasional wig. “I’m very girly,” she said. “I’ll wear wigs sometimes — braids or big Diana Ross hair — it depends on the mood I’m in. There are no rules.” “Fashion is fun, it’s creative,” added Mata Alanis. “It makes me feel good that I got up and took care of myself,” Zelaya said. “I tried.” “To me, fashion is an art, a way of life, and a peace promotion tool,” said Gonzalez Ramos. “It is the only way to reconcile individual differences and appreciate those around us regardless of their race, culture, or gender.”

Outfits thrifted at Revivals.

Header photo:

Alyssa Romero, D.C., Doctor of Chiropractic is wearing
Top: Vintage butterfly sequined
Pants: Dr. Romero’s own
Shoes: Only Madden

Top left photo:

Chris Bates, EHR Clinical Site Specialist is wearing
Top: Zara
Jeans: Scotch & Soda
Shoes: Chris’ favorite Vans
Bracelet: Leather bracelet with glass bead weaving
Sunglasses: Round metal Ray-bans

Top right photo:
Karen Zelaya, LVN Special Procedures  is wearing
Shawl: THML
Pants: Insight
Tee: Karen’s own
Everyday Tee
Shoes: Madden

Bottom right photo:
Jennifer Mata Alanis, Certified Medical Assistant is wearing
Jacket: CQ by CQ
Pants: Jennifer’s own

Bottom left photo:
Alexis Gonzalez Ramos, Housing Case Manager is wearing
Jacket: Silk bomber with appliqué
Shell: Gracia gold sequin
Shorts: Alexis’ favorite biker shorts
Boots: Madden

Reproductive Care is Health Care

The Intersection of LGBTQ Health Care and Reproductive Rights  

Prioritizing Patients Over Politics 

DAP Health is an advocacy-based humanitarian organization that believes women’s rights are human rights. Women played a critical role in our founding and continue to help lead our organization today. 

DAP Health stands in support of sexual and reproductive health care for women -- whether born cisgender, trans, non-binary, or lesbian.  

DAP Health supports a woman’s right to choose. We believe all women should receive access to health care tailored to their needs, not policies or politics. We believe that health care access for LGBTQ individuals and reproductive health care are uniquely linked because challenges to each are often based on political or ideological arguments that fail to prioritize patient-centered care. 

For 38 years, DAP Health has been advancing LGBTQ health care. First by focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, then on testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and most recently on gender-affirming care. We continue to expand our ability to provide culturally competent primary care and mental health care services.  

We see health outcomes improve when barriers like shame are removed. And we see the impact of anti-LGBTQ legislation on our community's mental health. We advocate for stigma-reducing person-centric language while providing patient-centered care, free from judgment. 

Access matters. According to the World Health Organization, lack of access to safe, affordable, timely, and respectful abortion care, and the stigma associated with abortion, pose detrimental risks to women’s physical and mental well-being throughout their lives.  

The Federal Policy Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Julianna Gonen, wrote in 2019: "The movements for reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality share deeply linked interests and concerns. We are all seeking control over our own bodies – the freedom to decide whether to become or remain pregnant, whether and with whom to have intimate relationships, and whether to seek medical care to help our bodies align with our gender identities. We seek the freedom to form our families on our own terms – to partner with and marry whom we love, to have children or not, and to live as our true selves as determined by us, not by someone else." 

The LGBTQ Community Finds Care at Reproductive Wellness Centers  

In Palm Springs, the LGBTQ community has enjoyed affirming health care at DAP Health since 1984. But in rural areas across California, and the nation, that same community often turns to reproductive wellness centers for judgment-free access to routine and preventative HIV and STI testing and treatment; gender-affirming care, and services related to reproductive healthcare.  

Roe v Wade and Marriage Equality  

We as a grassroots organization, founded in part because of denied access to health care and discrimination, firmly and ardently support the rights of every individual to make decisions based on their own personal needs. 

If the court does indeed overturn Roe v Wade, legal advocates say it has implications for other rights rooted in privacy, such as the rights pertaining to private sexual activity, and marriage equality.  

This includes the 2015 SCOTUS Obergefell v. Hodges ruling which affirmed that the Constitution grants same-sex couples equal protection and equal rights under the law. These rights cover access to employer-funded medical insurance coverage for same-sex couples and their dependents, family medical leave, and hospital visitation rights.  

Why DAP Health Focuses on Culturally Competent Care 

LGBTQ people experience worse health outcomes than the population overall due to barriers including high rates of health care discrimination, stigma, and humiliation; all of which are compounded by racism and poverty. 

Delayed preventive and medical care directly impact health outcomes for the LGBTQ community. Removing barriers to care while standing alongside our partners in reproductive health is the vital work that remains to be done to improve the health and well-being of everyone in our community. 

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.

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