Washington—The House of Representatives last night passed the Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center Access Improvement Act, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s bill to improve access to the Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center in Riverside County. The bill was passed by the Senate last year so it now heads to the White House for the president’s signature.
The facility is one of only two Indian Health Services Youth Regional Treatment Centers currently operating in California and provides treatment for American Indian and Alaskan Native children ages 12 to 17 years who suffer from substance abuse disorders. However, the 20-acre facility is only accessible via a dilapidated dirt road on private land. The bill would authorize Indian Health Services to acquire land and build a paved road to the treatment center.
“I’m grateful that Congress passed our bill to ensure Desert Sage patients will have access to the care they need,” said Senator Feinstein. “Desert Sage is one of only two Indian Health Services Youth Regional Treatment Centers in California. Unfortunately, heavy rains can wash out the old dirt road leading to the facility, making it difficult or even impossible for patients to reach. Our bill fixes the problem by allowing the Indian Health Service to buy land and pave a road, allowing patients to travel safely to the treatment center. I want to thank my colleagues for passing our bill and I look forward to President Biden signing it into law.”
The bill was cosponsored by Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) and cosponsored by Representatives Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.).
What the bill does:
- Authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services, acting through the Director of the Indian Health Service, to purchase land from willing sellers along a dirt road leading to the Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center.
- Requires the secretary to pay a fair market value for the land acquired.
- Directs the federal government to pave a road to improve access to the Desert Sage Wellness Center.
The Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center has provided treatment for American Indian and Alaskan Native youth since 2016. Previously, indigenous youth had to use out-of-state facilities, which removed them from their support systems during a crucial time of recovery. It is one of 12 centers nationwide and can serve up to 32 patients at a time.