May 27 2021
Washington—The Senate last night passed the Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center Access Improvement Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Raul Ruiz (both D-Calif.) 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 Indian Health Services to acquire land and build a paved road to the treatment center.
The bill is cosponsored by Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and 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.).
“By passing this bill the Senate has helped ensure that Desert Sage patients will have access to the care they need,” said Senator Feinstein. “The old dirt road that currently leads to the facility keeps washing out in the rain. Our bill will fix the road and pave it so patients can safely travel to the treatment center. I want to thank my fellow senators for passing this bill and will continue to work with Congressman Ruiz to get it through the House.”
“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,” Dr. Ruiz said. “It is unacceptable that there is no paved access to this facility. That is why I introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Feinstein to increase access to health care and restore dignity to residents throughout the region who rely on the treatment and care that Desert Sage provides. I am glad to see our bill pass the Senate. I look forward to getting this bill passed in the House and to the president’s desk.”
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 construct a paved 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.