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Congressman Raul Ruiz

Representing the 36th District of California

Dr. Ruiz Introduces Bi-Partisan Legislation for Infrastructure Improvements at Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center

October 3, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Representative Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-Palm Desert) and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Corona) introduced bi-partisan legislation to provide the Indian Health Service with authority to acquire land and build an access road to the Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center outside of Hemet, California. The facility is the only Indian Health Services Youth Regional Treatment Center in California and is currently accessed by a dilapidated dirt road that is frequently washed out by heavy rains and often in great disrepair.

“As the only IHS Youth Regional Treatment Center in California, the Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center provides crucial services to support our native youth and build strong communities in our region and around the state,” said Dr. Ruiz. “It is unacceptable that there is no paved access to this facility. This legislation will increase access to health care and restore dignity to residents throughout the region who rely on the treatment and care that Desert Sage provides.”

“The Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center serves a critical role providing needed health services to the Native American community in southern California.” said Rep. Calvert. “That’s why I proudly supported funding for the construction of the facility as the previous Chairman of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. I’m happy to work with Rep. Ruiz to ensure we have the infrastructure necessary to give patients access to this facility so they can safely receive care.”

“Tribes, Indian Health Programs, and American Indian families in California appreciate Congressional Representative Dr. Raul Ruiz for introducing this legislation and Representatives Ken Calvert, Pete Aguilar, and Paul Cook for cosponsoring it,” said Dr. Mark LeBeau, Chief Executive Officer of the California Rural Indian Health Board, Inc. “Their leadership in bringing this important legislation forward supports the Indian Health Service in completing the Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center construction project in Southern California.”

Chris Devers, Tribal Delegate for the Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians, said, “Having the main road paved will ensure that American Indian youth and facility staff can safely access the Desert Sage Wellness Center. We encourage all Representatives, especially those from California, to support this bill.”

The Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center provides substance abuse treatment to native youth with a focus on culturally appropriate care and community support. Desert Sage is the only Youth Regional Treatment Center in California and one of twelve nationwide.

Background

The legislation, H.R. 4495, is cosponsored by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), and Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA).

The Desert Sage Youth Treatment Center provides culturally sensitive treatment for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) youths between ages 12 and 17 suffering from Substance Use Disorders (SUD). Previously, AI/AN youth used out-of-state facilities which took away their support systems at this crucial time of recovery from SUD.

Desert Sage was constructed in 2016 and can serve up to 32 patients at a time. It is the only IHS Youth Regional Treatment Center in California.

When the facility was constructed, the Indian Health Service was unable to reach agreement with landowners on adjacent properties in order to pave and maintain an access road. Dr. Ruiz’s legislation would give IHS the authority to purchase the land from willing sellers and construct a road to the facility.

According the Centers for Disease Control, American Indian and Alaska Native populations had the second highest overdose rates from all opioids in 2017 among racial/ethnic groups in the United States.

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