Borrego Sun - Since 1949

DAP Takes Over Borrego Health

What does this mean for our Clinic?


Last updated 9/14/2023 at 11:42am

On July 31, DAP Health, a federally qualified Health Center (FQHC), became the new owner of Borrego Community Healthcare Foundation’s (Borrego Health) assets. Purchasing the 18 remaining clinics with the auction bid of $50 million, DAP Health, originally the Desert Aids Project, is an advocacy-based health center in Palm Springs, serving over 8,000 patients, offering medical and mental healthcare.

July 31 and the transfer of ownership ends years of investigation by the Borrego Sun, culminating in the October 20, 2020-FBI, state Department of Justice (DOJ) raid of Borrego Health offices, contract dental offices, as well as the offices of Premier Healthcare Management.

Regretfully, after three years, the criminals have not been brought to justice and Borrego Health’s civil suits against many of the perpetrators have not generated any compensation from the individual and collective thefts of tax payer, Medicaid, Medi-Cal and Medicare Funds.

It will be more than a shame, if the law breakers don’t do jail time, sending notice to whoever wants to steal from the healthcare system, that the odds are in their favor. The government’s non-profit health care programs seem exceptionally vulnerable and the regulators exceptionally lax.

Borrego Health’s cult of profiteering, no doubt, played a role in Borrego Health’s inconsistency of services, shortage of adequate medical equipment in some clinics, and the merry-go-round of on-site doctors, support staff and medical specialists at many of the clinics, most notably the Borrego Springs clinic.

In addition to the Borrego Springs clinic, rumors and reports shared with the Sun by professionals and patients alike, tell a tale of administrative incompetence and failure to meet the needs of local residents in many of the original 25 clinics owned by Borrego Health.

The Sun recently received two credible reports by patients of the Cathedral City Stonewall Clinic of overbilling for services that were not provided by two high level medical professionals. Fraud continues at the clinics.

DAP is taking on a number of problems. The hardest to solve may be dealing with the ongoing fraud such as billing the government for services that are not performed. Continuing reports coming from patients attest to the fact that fraud at Borrego Health was not just a one-time aberration, but is rather ingrained in the work culture.

How could it not be after so many years of not only escaping regulatory consequences, but actually being encouraged by past management from the CEO to the Benefits Officer (Brothers Hebets, Bruce and James) to doctors and dentists. Perhaps, most egregious has been a history of profiteering by Borrego Health’s Board of Trustee members.

For long term observers, it’s obvious that Borrego Health’s fraud complaint program of recording, tracking and correctional procedures – investigation and firing doctors accused of committing criminal activities – have not improved since the Bruce Hebets/Mikia Wallis administrations. Among all the other priorities DAP must deal with to maintain, the smaller Palm Springs clinic’s sound record of performance, cleaning house of Borrego’s bad apples, may be the most difficult task.

The good news is, the new integration brings with it a new board of trustees – trustees that, hopefully, can be trusted to take their fiscal, regulatory and administrative responsibilities seriously.

The Sun reached out to DAP leaders to answer some of the questions Borrego Springs residents are asking about the purchase and changes to medical services.

Steven Henke, spokesperson for DAP viewed the questions as a positive, not a negative and as an opportunity to learn, not a threat That’s a good start.

“We appreciate your interest in the changes and enhancements this integration will bring to the Borrego Springs Clinic and its services,” stated Henke.

“Regarding management, DAP Health is delighted to confirm that it will be managing the Borrego Springs Clinic as part of the integrated health care system. While Innercare’s West Shores Clinic (Innercare is one of two FQHC associates named in the DAP purchase agreement) is indeed near Borrego Springs, the integration of Borrego Health’s clinic and Pharmacy under DAP Health’s umbrella will ensure that patients in the Borrego Springs area continue to receive quality care without interruption.”

That’s good, except the Borrego Clinic is not the best example of quality care. And, that the shortage of quality performances is typically not the fault of staff, but of management. An overload of management and officers all drawing salaries from $400,000 to $700,000 with benefits, really should have done a better job. Unfortunately, many of the 30 something officers lacked the experience or the credentials below the intern level.

Back to DAP. Attempting to get clarification of the relationship of the two associates – Innercare and Neighborhood Healthcare – is difficult. Henke explained, “the two other FQHC’s, will provide additional guidance, support, and community connections when needed, thereby enriching the comprehensive care provided to our diverse patient population.”

DAP does not refer to the purchase of Borrego Health as new ownership but, politely, as an integration between Borrego Health, DAP and the two associates.

That’s not necessarily good.

In discussing the subject matter, the Sun explained some of the limitations of care, including clinic hours, along with other critical concerns residents often express about the lack of quality of care, experienced under Borrego Health as the local provider.

Responding to some of the criticism of Borrego Health, Henke stated that, “The integration of DAP Health and Borrego Health is aimed at protecting and expanding access to culturally competent care for all patients. Our commitment to patient-centered care remains unwavering, with a focus on addressing the social determinants of health (SDOH) that impact our patient population.

Henke acknowledged that the pharmacy is an important community resource. “The Borrego Springs Pharmacy will maintain its hours, ensuring continued accessibility for patients. Furthermore, we are pleased to confirm that the pharmacy will permanently remain in Borrego Springs, ensuring that patients have access to essential pharmaceutical services in the community.

“We understand the importance of consistent staffing and accessibility, especially in an isolated community like Borrego Springs. We are pleased to inform you that all Borrego Health employees have been offered employment at DAP Health, and the vast majority have accepted this opportunity to be part of our combined entity.

This continuity of staff ensures that patients can continue to rely on familiar faces for their care. Additionally, patients, who wish, will retain their providers and care teams, as they transition to being employees of DAP Health.”

It would be good to have an onsite doctor that folks can become familiar with – most only stay a few months before resigning. Some resort to alcohol. What does that say about Borrego Health?

Regarding the relationship between health care and addressing cultural divisions in the community, Henke points out, “As we move forward, we are committed to enhancing the patient’s experience by addressing the social determinants of health and providing comprehensive, accessible, and culturally sensitive care.

Our fortified executive leadership team, representing both organizations, will work diligently to improve health outcomes for all patient populations served by our combined entity. This may involve the addition of new programs, services, and improvements to our facilities,” said Henke.

That’s really good news – the part about additional new programs, services and improvements to the facility.

“We understand that these changes may raise questions. DAP Health is committed to providing transparent and accurate information to the community. In keeping with our process, you can expect to see current and future verified financial reporting available to the community on our website.

“If you or any community members require further clarification or have additional inquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We value your engagement and are excited about the positive impact this integration will bring to the Borrego Springs Clinic and the wider community,” concluded Henke.

A pleasant change is the fact DAP posts it’s IRS 990s, plus audits on its website for easy access. Borrego Health hid theirs in the treasurer’s desk; keeping fingers crossed people would not know how to find the reports; or see all the red flags.

Steven Brinkman is the DAP CEO; and Corina Velasquez, has been named chief operating officer. Velasquez is the only person from the Borrego Health leadership team that is on DAP’s executive leadership team. Other Members of the executive leadership team may be found on the DAP Website.

The DAP website and media kit offers a glimpse into the type of organization replacing Borrego Health and there are many positive attributes such as open communication. For example, the website offers a FAQ sheet on DAP and answers to a number of detailed transition facts for the new patients. Even going to the extreme of offering patients the opportunity to communicate a comment and concern directly by clicking on the website here.

That’s really good.

Another of the positives is that DAP is an active member and participant in the community. Posting information on healthcare, as well as hosting events. Too often with Borrego Health, there was a circle drawn around the clinic that really did not encourage, nor offer community participation or education.

For example, during the pandemic, one of the singular most important health care crisis, it was volunteers that created and maintained a Coronavirus website for Borrego Springs residents; it was community leaders who lobbied the county to provide weekend long vaccination services by local fire departments – not the clinic. And. it was volunteers who made masks and information brochures that were distributed to Borrego Springs businesses.

Borrego Springs has an active volunteer community ready to step-in wherever there is a need. Unfortunately, the clinic did not see itself as an active participant that went beyond opening and closing its doors from Monday - Friday. What went on when the doors were open was not general knowledge or advertised. As such, the clinic was not very inviting, a community partner, or viewed as being sensitive to the population’s needs.

Good on you DAP Health. Welcome to Borrego Springs. We are expecting something new and better. And we are hoping for something new and better from the California Attorney General’s office – like indictments. Without bringing the already proven criminals to justice, there is only one conclusion to be drawn: sadly, it would be that the state government is also corrupt.

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