I am writing in my role as the new CEO of the Desert Healthcare District/Foundation. I am not brand new to the Desert (my husband I have had a weekend home here for two years), but I share an experience with the many residents with whom I have been fortunate to speak in the last four months on the job. All of us – yes, myself included – were unaware of the District/Foundation and the activities it undertakes.

During my interview for the job, I was enthralled by the organization’s mission and the strong desire of the Board of Directors to transform itself to maximize the District/Foundation’s ability to help meet the health needs of the Coachella Valley. Now, a new vision has been adopted, and a multi-year comprehensive strategic planning process is underway.

While this organization is a unique combination of a local government agency and a nonprofit foundation, it is the role of funder that is the subject of this column. We want to share our new goals and the role we play in improving the health and wellness of our community.

What activities does the District/Foundation undertake?

The Desert Healthcare District/Foundation is the largest funder of health and wellness services and programs in the Coachella Valley. Community-based organizations, providers, educational institutions, and others receive grants to provide vitally needed services and programs to district residents.

What are the mission and the vision of the District/Foundation?

Mission: To achieve optimal health at all stages of life for district residents

Vision: Connecting Coachella Valley residents to health and wellness services and programs through resources and philanthropy, health facilities, information and community education, and public policy

What services and programs does the District/Foundation support?

We provide funding for a variety of programs and services including UCRs ongoing doctor training program at Desert Regional Medical Center; behavioral health clinics, dental, counseling, and family medicine services; federally qualified health centers, free clinics, and other facilities; Get Tested Coachella Valley and Ready Set Swim!; ongoing food assistance, shelter and housing; and health and wellness programs and services associated with chronic conditions.

What are the borders of the current District/Foundation, and will it expand to the entire Coachella Valley?

The current District, created by voters in 1948 for the purposes of building a hospital (now Desert Regional Medical Center), includes the cities of Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, and part of Palm Desert (west of Cook Street), as well as some unincorporated county areas.

There will be an election to expand the District to the entire Coachella Valley in November of 2018, thanks to the leadership of Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia and Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz. Voters in the other part of Palm Desert, the cities of Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio, Coachella, and the remainder of the East Valley, including the communities of Mecca, Thermal, Oasis, and North Shore, will be asked if they want these areas to be annexed into the District.

The Desert Healthcare District/Foundation Board strongly supports expansion to the entire Coachella Valley.

How is the District/Foundation governed and funded?

Five board members are elected by the public for four-year terms; they are staggered terms so elections occur every two years. A very small portion of the county property tax that you already pay comes back to the District/Foundation to help fund its activities.

How does the District/Foundation relate to Desert Regional Medical Center?

Although the District/Foundation owns the hospital, it does not operate it. Tenet Healthcare leases and operates Desert Regional Medical Center. The District/Foundation Board of Directors oversees compliance with the lease.

For additional information on the Desert Healthcare District/Foundation call (760) 323.6113 or visit their website at www.dhcd.org. For an online referral directory of health services and programs across the Coachella Valley (in English and Spanish), visit their Health Information Portal at www.CVHIP.com.

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