If change is progress in search of perfection, as Winston Churchill said, D.A.P. has made progress in a big way in 2015 … and we have even greater plans for 2016 and beyond.
“Thanks to new advances in treatment, improved access to care through health reform, and the incredible success of PrEP, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, as an HIV prevention method, the end of AIDS is finally in sight – and D.A.P. aims to be a part of it,” said David Brinkman, CEO of Desert AIDS Project.
Even though our mission remains resolute in providing wraparound, “medical home” services for the care of those living with HIV, our primary care services are available to all, including those who are HIV-negative. While D.A.P. accepts a variety of insurance plans – Medicare, Medi-Cal, a variety of Covered California plans under “Obamacare,” and more — our primary concern is that anyone needing our services can access them, regardless of ability to pay.
Our plans to continue making that happen include improving our clinical services, as well as doing research that could benefit not just the Coachella Valley but have global impact as well. Central to it all of this happening is the elevation of David Hersh, MD to a brand-new positon at D.A.P. as our very first Chief Clinical Officer (CCO.)
Joining D.A.P. in March of 2013 as our lead psychiatrist, Dr. Hersh’s administrative skills were tapped just eight months later when he accepted the new position of Director of Clinical Services, to lead Behavioral Health, the Medical Clinic and The Dock, Home Health, the Dental Clinic, the Community Wellness Services Center, and the Career Building Program. Now, as Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Hersh will add leadership of D.A.P.’s Social Services Department – case management and an array of services including food and housing – and Quality Improvement.
Dr. Hersh came to D.A.P. from San Francisco, an ongoing epicenter of the epidemic and a community that helped script the early response in AIDS care. There, he was Medical Director of Substance Use Treatment Services for the San Fransico Department of Public Health, Community Behavioral Health Services, overseeing a number of programs spanning psychiatry and substance abuse treatment.
Dr. Hersh is a medical doctor with degrees from Johns Hopkins, the Rutgers University School of Medicine and Yale University. He’s a former internist who worked closely with our own Dr. Steven Scheibel to break down “silos” that often separate medicine from mental health. Dr. Hersh promotes integrated, holistic care because emotional challenges can lead to serious physical complications and vise versa.
“Can we really expect a severely depressed patient to take their HIV meds regularly, or someone’s mood to improve if their diabetes is out of control or they are experiencing chronic pain?” Hersh asks. That attitude informed Dr. Hersh’s support and expansion of non-traditional forms of care provided by the Community Wellness Services Center, such as acupuncture, yoga, Reiki, workforce re-entry and educational programs, as well as a number of therapy and support groups.
Watch for even more in 2016 at Desert AIDS Project, as we continue adding key staff to our medical clinic – like new Medical Director Dr. David Morris and Nurse Practitioner Rodney Fox, Ph.D. – and ramping up our research studies under the ongoing leadership of Dr. Steven Scheibel.
“We’ve got a great staff already at D.A.P. and I look forward to seeing how we can expand and improve our care and research even more,” Hersh concluded. “As someone who remembers a world before effective HIV treatment, it’s been so satisfying to be even a small part of helping people live healthier lives, despite the virus. I can’t wait to see an end to this, once and for all.”