U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra Visits DAP Health’s Palm Springs Headquarters
October 28, 2022
As part of his tour of Southern California — and upon the invitation of Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz — U.S. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra (the first Latino to hold the office) visited the Palm Springs headquarters of DAP Health on the morning of Friday, October 28, 2022.
The tour encompassed both the Annette Bloch CARE Building and the Barbara Keller LOVE Building, which together house not only administration offices but primary care and dental clinics, the Sexual Wellness Clinic, and the Marc Byrd Behavioral Health Clinic.
Following the informal walk-through, DAP Health CEO David Brinkman moderated a roundtable discussion in the non-profit’s board room, which focused on the top five health equity priorities shared by HHS and DAP, all of which are of urgent concern to the local LGBTQ+ community: ending the pandemic, reducing health care costs, expanding access to care, tackling health disparities, and strengthening behavioral health.
Speaking specifically to barriers that prevent community members from accessing health care, stakeholders were unanimous in highlighting such issues as a widely diverse population (from newly arrived retirees from across the country to migrant farm workers living in Mexico), the lack of efficient public transportation (a unique hindrance in such a large geographical area that extends from Palm Springs to the Eastern Coachella Valley cities of Indio, Thermal, Oasis, Mecca, and North Shore), our region’s higher prevalence of HIV and MPX, and the challenges of building relationships with people who are still unaware of DAP Health and the wide array of wraparound services it offers.
In thanking Secretary Becerra for accepting his invitation, Congressman Dr. Ruiz voiced his appreciation for the Secretary showing this community that it mattered not only to him and his department, but to the president of the United States, and to his administration.
“It was an honor to host Secretary Becerra here in the 36th District to discuss mental health care services in our communities,” he said. “Our region faces a physician shortage crisis, and we have an increased need for mental health care services, especially after the pandemic. That is why today, I’m so glad we were able to bring local stakeholders together to collaborate with the county and local clinics like DAP Health for a discussion on how we can bring home necessary federal resources to expand access to care in our region.”
“All of us at DAP Health are deeply indebted to Congressman Dr. Ruiz for extending this invitation — and to Secretary Becerra for immediately accepting it,” said Brinkman. “We are obviously very proud of our facilities and of our efforts and successes, both past and present.”
Secretary Becerra expressed how impressed he was with DAP Health — officials of which have travelled to the White House and to Africa — and the fact that the organization treats its patients not just as patients, but as family members. “What DAP Health is doing is knocking people’s socks off,” he said, adding, “I want in. I want to help. If I have money, I’m gonna send it your way.”
The Honorable Lisa Middleton — who as mayor of Palm Springs is the first openly transgender person to serve in that civic role in California — spoke of the dangerous politicization of trans health care and the need to protect medical professionals who care for members of that community. “This administration is the best we’ve ever had,” she commented, to which Becerra replied, “We don’t shy away from this issue.”
Innercare Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jonathan Slone, in referring explicitly to behavioral health, said our current number of available professionals locally is inadequate to deal with present demand, and that said demand is just “the tip of the iceberg.”
Palm Springs City Council member Christy Holstege not only spoke to the contradiction inherent in Palm Springs — its world-renowned wealth and glamor mask some of the most extreme poverty in the nation — but commended DAP Health for so generously sharing the expertise it has earned in dealing with the HIV epidemic for the last 40 years, and for stepping up on behalf of the entire community as a powerful force against both COVID-19 and MPX.”
Brinkman was not only very happy with how the visit and subsequent dialogue unfolded but stressed how important it was for DAP Health to invite others to the table. “Community partners and city and federal leaders spoke passionately about our region’s unmet mental health needs,” he said. “What’s working? Building mental health safety nets through creative collaborations that address housing, substance use, employment, healthcare, and mental health. When we join forces and approach care in a diverse manner, our effectiveness increases. It’s through diversity that our community heals and evolves. Of the utmost importance is for none of us to ever forget that we’re all in this together. If our joint advocacy is to result in true health equity for all, we must work alongside one another, from the grassroots all the way to the national level.”
From DAP Health
Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Jeffrey Reynoso, HHS Regional Director, Region IX
Dr. Raul Ruiz, Congressman (D-CA-36)
CDR Michelle Sandoval-Rosario, Region IX PACE Program Director, OASH
David Brinkman, CEO
CJ Tobe, Director of Community Health and Sexual Wellness Services
Patrick Jordan, Board Chair
Scott Nevins, Board Member
The Honorable Lisa Middleton, Mayor of the City of Palm Springs
Christy Holstege, Palm Springs City Council Member
Dr. Jonathan Slone, Senior VP and Chief Medical Officer of Innercare
Kim Saruwatari, Director of Public Health, Riverside University Health System
Dr. Christopher G. Fichtner,
Director of Public Health and
Interim Chair of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, UC Riverside