Feb 01 2021
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Alex Padilla and Congressmen Raul Ruiz (all D-Calif.) today reintroduced the Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center Access Improvement Act, a bill 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.
The bill passed the Senate last year, and was approved as part of a package of bills in the House, but the 116th Congress ended before the bill could become law. Feinstein and Ruiz are hopeful that last year’s momentum will spur rapid passage of the bill.
In the House, the bill is cosponsored by Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) and Ken Calvert (R-Calif.).
“Desert Sage provides critical care to our native youth and it’s imperative that they always have access to the facility,” Senator Feinstein said. “The dirt road lead to the facility washes out in rainstorms and desperately needs to be paved. Desert Sage is the only Indian Health Services Youth Regional Treatment Center currently operating in California. We must fix the road so its patients can access 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 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.”
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 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.