The vision is moving forward
DAP Health’s campus expansion gains momentum
Words by Ellen Bluestein
Vision Forward, DAP Health’s 10-year strategic plan, continues to gain momentum in 2023. The initiative, which will expand the organization’s ability to serve clients — from 10,000 to 25,000 annually — is slated to be complete by 2025.
The impetus for DAP Health to grow is a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “With [the ACA], lower-income Californians gained access to health insurance for the first time,” says DAP Health CEO David Brinkman. “All of a sudden, demand increased dramatically, and that’s when we knew we needed to be able to respond to this opportunity to increase the health and well-being of our community.”
The first phase of the campaign included purchasing the former Riverside County Health structure (renamed the Annette Bloch CARE Building) adjacent to DAP Health’s Barbara Keller LOVE Building, and renovating it to accommodate three primary care clinics and a sexual wellness clinic. “To me, it’s all about creating more access points to people in our community,” says Director of Community Health and Sexual Wellness C.J. Tobe. “And opening these new clinics in this capital expansion — that’s exactly what it is. It’s going to serve more people, and people are going to be healthier and happier.
“Sexual wellness is really a gateway for people who don’t have access to community resources or to any primary care, behavioral health, or dental care,” continues Tobe. “They use sexual wellness as the first step to engage in some system to get support. And so, when you talk about opening a clinic … you’re opening a door to a community to say, ‘Hey, let’s have a conversation about your health and wellness.’”
With the clinics complete, the focus is on working with the Coachella Valley Housing Authority to create a second permanent supportive housing structure, named Vista Sunrise II, that will offer 61 new affordable-housing units on DAP Health’s Palm Springs campus. “The construction is moving fast,” says Brinkman. “It’s just a few months behind, and its completion impacts the next phase of construction.”
Given the current cost and availability of construction materials and labor, delays will actually help the project. “It behooves the organization to take its time, hoping that material supply-chain issues will be resolved, and inflation, materials, and labor will normalize,” says Principal Architect Maria Song of International Design Corporation, the firm leading the project. “That’s important because I think people are going, ‘Why is it taking so long?’ But there’s a real benefit to waiting right now.”
Once Vista Sunrise II opens, the next phase — building the Desert Care Network Health Pavilion — will accelerate. The 19,000-square-foot structure will bridge the Barbara Keller LOVE Building and the Annette Bloch CARE Building, and will boast a central registration area for all clinical services, a diagnostic lab, a pharmacy, and a café with outdoor seating that will be open to the public and staffed and managed by clients of DAP Health’s Return-to-Work program.
A driveway will route clients to this new main entrance, and pedestrian-friendly pathways will link it to the rest of the campus. The existing entrance on Sunrise Way will be repurposed into a service entrance for deliveries, and a new entrance will be created by Vista Sunrise II. The Vista Chino entrance will remain as is.
“These are really impressive plans, both literally and figuratively,’ says Song. “And it’s going to make such a huge difference to [DAP Health’s] programs and what’s offered.” According to Song, it will take a year and a half to complete the pavilion. Current estimates for its opening range from June 2024 to the end of that year.
The overall campus design, including the pavilion and the housing project, was approved last year by the city of Palm Springs during what is called the entitlement process. “This is when the campus developer submits to the city the entire design and legal information of what they propose to do based on a general plan,” explains Song. Next is the plan check, which “means that the plan examiner of the city’s Building Department will be reviewing the plan for construction to see that it meets the building code, the energy code, the plumbing code, and the
While working with the Building Department during this process — which can take up to six weeks and involves correcting and reworking any code issues that are found — Song and her team will develop a tenant-improvement plan which fleshes out the plans for the interior of the buildings. Once permitting is approved, Song will select the general contractor and all the subcontractors, making sure the project comes in within budget.
“The city of Palm Springs Building Department has been very collaborative,” Song reveals. “DAP Health is an established and important organization here in the valley. The city knows and supports that.”
Collaboration has been a key part of the entire Vision Forward planning process, and it will continue as DAP Health’s leadership works with Song to finalize the interior design. From the beginning, the goal was to create the look and feel of bringing the outside indoors, which will be achieved by using organic materials throughout the pavilion. With that, “those qualitative words now become quantitative in specification material selection,” says Song.
Song identifies the expansion as two separate projects: the west space (which includes the pavilion) and the east space (which is mostly facade improvements, exterior building upgrades, and smaller additions). The east space “is more of a site design,” says Song. But because the buildings are exposed and visually integrated with the image of the city, “any design that we do would have to go as a major architectural application so that [when] we get the concept approved … we can start developing the plans for construction,” she continues.
Design of the east space will begin as construction is underway on the west area. That way, by the time construction is finished on the latter, plans will be approved for work to begin on the former.
As plans continue to evolve, input from staff becomes a vital part of the process. It also speaks to DAP Health’s mission of inclusion and collaboration. “There’s a saying that goes, ‘If it involves me, involve me,’ and so that’s what we do,” says Chief of Clinical Operations Carol Wood. “We really do get right down to the root of it, even to the extent of asking nurses and medical assistants, ‘What’s going to make your job more efficient, and how are you going to be able to do a better job for your patients in your role?’”
With the expansion of the campus comes the expansion of the definition of health care itself. No longer does it just include traditional physical well-being. “We have a very unique campus model,” says Brinkman. “It’s one that acknowledges that health care is access to housing, health care is access to acupuncture and chiropractic and meditation. Our model understands that health care is proper nutrition combined with good mental health care and substance use counseling and, last but not least, that it should be accessible to all, regardless of one’s ability to pay. To be able to go from offering all this to 10,000 folks today to 25,000 people at the completion of this campaign is extremely exciting.”