When it comes to the Desert Healthcare District, there will no longer be an Eastern Valley and a Western Valley. There will now be One Coachella Valley.
Effective immediately, the District will now use all money to support grants, programs, and initiatives across the District, which encompasses the entire Coachella Valley.
On May 26, the Board of Directors approved a resolution that implements the equitable consideration and distribution of money based on community needs.
The resolution calls for “deleting the restriction that District funds from property tax revenues or facility replacement funds cannot be used to benefit the expanded area of the Eastern Coachella Valley and the Board of Directors of the Foundation hereby concurs with the adoption of a One Coachella Valley approach which allows the District and the Foundation to utilize all District and Foundation funds to address the missions of the District and Foundation and the health care needs of the residents of the entire District and communities served by the District and Foundation.” (Read the resolution here.)
The District and Foundation operates on an annual budget of more than $7 million. Budget revenue is comprised of funds from a small portion of property taxes already paid in the western valley, the lease of Desert Regional Medical Center and other properties, and donations. The majority of budgeted funds for grants and programs have been allocated in the western valley since the District’s origin in 1948.
Residents throughout the Coachella Valley pay the same property tax assessment to Riverside County, but only the western region’s amount is allocated toward the District’s needs.
In November 2018, the District and Foundation Board brought forth a ballot measure to extend the District boundary east of Cook Street in Palm Desert. Roughly 80 percent of voters approved the expansion of the District, which in turn allowed the District and Foundation Board to include eastern valley communities in its mission “to achieve optimal health at all stages of life for all District residents” for the first time in its history.
“The Board of Directors takes its commitment to connect all valley residents to health and wellness seriously,” said Leticia De Lara, Board president for the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation. “We recognize the challenges of doing that effectively when there are funding disparities based primarily on geography. This resolution enables us to fully carry out our commitment where the needs are, and that’s valley-wide.”
Because expansion was not contingent upon drawing on existing tax revenues from the eastern valley, the District and Foundation was challenged to identify other funding sources to cover the expansion. In February 2018, the Board allocated $300,000 a year to be used in the east over 20 years. However, it soon was apparent that the allocation was a fraction of the funds needed to create a healthcare infrastructure that eliminates barriers to accessing health and wellness in the eastern valley. The resolution frees the District and Foundation Board to financially support healthcare needs regardless of where residents live in the community, including uninsured and underinsured residents.
“For 70 years, the District has funded opportunities to advance community wellness in western Coachella Valley, starting with the construction of a hospital in Palm Springs,” said Dr. Conrado Bárzaga, Desert Healthcare District and Foundation CEO. “The Board and staff remain committed to the health and wellness of residents in the west, but we recognize that health issues do not occur in a vacuum. If the coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that the issues that affect one part of a community ultimately affect all of the community. This resolution allows the District and Foundation to help ensure that we create a healthy and thriving community valley-wide.”
The newly expanded District consists of more than 400,000 residents in nine valley cities and various unincorporated communities, and it is governed by seven elected Board Directors.
- Leticia De Lara: Desert Healthcare District
- Aerial view of Coachella Valley: Shutterstock