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District’s Eastern Expansion Advances

A “One Coachella Valley” approach for health and wellness

The Desert Healthcare District (DHCD) is a leading organization connecting local residents to health providers, facilities, programs, and services. Each year they grant an average of $4 million to nonprofit, community-based and provider-based organizations to assist residents – especially the underserved – in accessing vitally needed resources, such as primary and behavioral health care, housing, food, and transportation resources.

The government agency was formed in 1948 with a mission to achieve optimal health at all stages of life for district residents which encompasses the cities of Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert (west of Cook Street), and unincorporated areas of Riverside County.

Now the agency is one step closer to expanding their services to the entire Coachella Valley. The proposal has been in the works for years and in the end of February, the DHCD board approved the move stating that it is fully committed to the expansion.

“No one is healthy unless everyone in the community is healthy,” said Board President Les Zendle, MD. “It’s about expanding and transforming to help better meet the needs of all Coachella Valley residents.”

Identifying and securing the funding option for the expansion is one of the last critical steps in the process. At a special meeting in February, the board voted to establish an amount for self-funding at a minimum of $300,000 per year to assure the process moves to the ballot in November 2018. Their goal is to eventually match the $4 million invested in the current district territory.

If the expansion initiative is approved by the east Valley voters, two new board members would be appointed from the east, increasing the board of directors to a total of seven. This would be followed by a 2020 election process that would divide the DHCD into seven voting districts with representation in accordance with demographics, including population and geographic factors, of the entire area.

The DHCD service area would expand from 515 square miles and more than 200,000 residents in the west Valley to a new total of 2,275 square miles, adding roughly 240,000 more residents from the east. It would encompass the remainder of Palm Desert (east of Cook Street), the cities of Bermuda Dunes, Coachella, Indian Wells, Indio, La Quinta, Mecca, North Shore, Oasis, Thermal, Vista Santa Rosa and other unincorporated areas of Riverside County.

“With polling of both east and west Valley voters indicating that 75 and 85 percent of residents, respectively, favor expansion, the District is fully committed to extending our ability to connect all residents to health and wellness services,” said District/Foundation CEO Herb K. Schultz, who cited the voter surveys conducted for the District by Probolsky Research.

Through the polling, extensive research and analysis, as well as significant community input, the DHCD is working to implement the expansion that will help reduce the health disparities that exist from west to east.

“We see the health needs in the east and want to expand to meet them,” explained Zendle.  “We envision a One Coachella Valley, where we could accomplish so much more for all residents of the Coachella Valley.”

For more information on the Desert Healthcare District visit www.dhcd.org.

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