Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced legislation to improve access to the Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center in Riverside County.
The facility is the only Indian Health Services Youth Regional Treatment Center 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. The bill would authorize the IHS to acquire land and build a new paved road to the center.
“Desert Sage is the only Indian Health Services Youth Regional Treatment Center in California and it’s critical that its patients have access to the facility,” said Senator Feinstein. “The current dirt road leading to the facility frequently washes out in rainstorms. Our bill would fix the problem by building a paved access road to ensure Desert Sage’s patients can always receive the care they need.”
“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 Congressmen Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-Calif.). “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.”
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 pay a fair market value for the land acquired.
- Directs the federal government to construct a paved road to improve access to the Desert Sage Wellness Center.
The House of Representatives in July passed companion legislation introduced by Congressmen Ruiz (D-Calif.), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), Paul Cook [R-Calif.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.). Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-Calif.), Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) and Josh Harder (D-Calif.).
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.