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Advancing Community wellness in the Coachella Valley

Desert Healthcare District Board & staff recognize community partners in COVID-19 response

A member of CVEC approaches a podium where two women stand to hand out certificates of appreciation. Photo by District Staff

Almost four years ago, the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation launched a community-wide response to COVID-19 in the Coachella Valley.

With initial CARES Act funding from the Riverside County Department of Public Health, the District and Foundation awarded grants to eight community-based and faith-based nonprofits. Together, these organizations, the county, and the District and Foundation became known as the Coachella Valley Equity Collaborative (CVEC). The Collaborative swelled to 25 partners -- including Rite Aid Pharmacies, CV Pharmacy, and Desert Sands Unified and Coachella Valley Unified School Districts -- at times.


The objective of CVEC was to help ensure that the valley's traditionally underserved and most vulnerable residents gained access to tests, vaccines, education, and other COVID-19 resources. It did this primarily by addressing and removing barriers to care, such as lack of transportation, technological access, and language limitations. Community health workers, or promotoras, were a tireless and essential component in CVEC's response.

To date, CVEC has provided services at 350 COVID-19 testing clinics and 478 vaccination clinics. The outcome consisted of 49,646 vaccines and 23,592 tests administered by CVEC and its partners. In addition, more than 15,032 at-home tests, 2,357 doses of the flu vaccine, 68 doses of RSV vaccine, 21 doses of shingles vaccine, and 13 doses of pneumonia vaccine were provided.


At the District and Foundation's monthly Board meeting Tuesday, Jan. 23, the CVEC partners were recognized for their dedication and impact in reducing local hospitalizations and deaths resulting from the pandemic. They were presented with certificates of appreciation from the offices of Congressman Raul Ruiz, MD, and Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia.

"This is such a big deal," Board Director Leticia De Lara said. "Fifty thousand vaccines were administered -- that is amazing. This was such a team effort."


The original eight partner-organizations that were honored this week are Alianza Coachella Valley, El Sol Neighborhood Education Center, Galilee Center, Lideres Campesinas, Pueblo Unido CDC, TODEC Legal Center, Visión Y Compromiso, Youth Leadership Institute. In addition, Borrego Health, California Farmworker Foundation, CV Pharmacy and Rite-Aid Pharmacies were recognized as CVEC providers and supporters.

CVEC's COVID-19 response was also supported by various funding sources, in addition to District and Foundation funds:


  • Riverside County contract: $4,415,977
  • Public Health Institute grant: $725,000
  • U.S. Aging grant: $341,648

The presentation on Tuesday was emotional for many, as some presenters and honorees expressed how the Collaborative had become a family during efforts to address the needs of valley residents from Desert Hot Springs to North Shore.


Chris Christensen, Desert Healthcare District and Foundation interim CEO, and Director De Lara both thanked former CEO Conrado Bárzaga for his role in organizing and leading CVEC. Christensen went on to thank the entire District and Foundation staff and Board for their contributions. Special recognition was given to Alejandro Espinoza, District and Foundation chief of community engagement, who has worked closely with CVEC since its inception.

"This is a great example of the work of the Desert Healthcare District," said Director Les Zendle, MD, who attended the meeting by Zoom. "We should be proud of it."


Please direct media inquiries to Will Dean, director of communications and marketing, at