A new report spotlights a harsh reality in the Eastern Coachella Valley: the water, air and soil there are polluted – significantly more so than the West Valley and Riverside County as a whole.
Author: Suzanne Potter
In the past two years, poverty rates in Riverside County rose from 12 percent to about 14 percent, according to the Community Action Partnership (CAP) Riverside, the agency charged with doing something about it.
Toxic waste dumps. Poor air quality. And the slow death of the Salton Sea. The Eastern Coachella Valley has serious environmental problems – and now locals are getting involved.
The CHMI recently released the Coachella Valley Blueprint for Action report, which was produced at a marathon brainstorming session in December by 125 local health-care experts. The blueprint aims to help people live longer, healthier lives – and it encompasses many factors, not just access to health care.
The Affordable Care Act takes full effect in January 2014 and states, including California, are preparing to implement the signature change of reform: new health care exchanges. The exchanges are intended to make it easier and more affordable for people to purchase insurance – but they won’t work unless the uninsured know how they work. To that end, the state is about to release $43 million in grant money to local agencies to promote the new health exchange.
This summer, Coachella stands to become the first city in the Coachella Valley to adopt a new general plan that has been re-written with health issues in mind. It’s a preventative approach primarily designed to encourage more physical activity. That translates into more parks, sidewalks, hiking trails and bike lanes that are well-lit and safe. But the city is also trying novel approaches to bring in more medical facilities and attract more employers in general, so families can afford to take some leisure time and get some fresh air.
The Health Matters conference comes to the Coachella Valley, headlined by luminaries from Bill Clinton to Barbra Streisand.
The water and sewer pipes that serve the rest of the Coachella Valley stop five miles short of Saint Anthony’s trailer park, home to poor farmworkers and their families. Their sewage is piped into a waste lagoon near the park. And the water comes from a 40-year-old well – water that is tainted with a carcinogenic toxin: naturally-occurring arsenic.
Think big. That was the charge given to 125 health experts from across the Coachella Valley at a recent planning conference hosted by the Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI). “We are looking to set big, audacious goals here,” Ginny Ehrlich, CEO of the CHMI, told the crowd.
The new Clinton Health Matters Initiative, which aims to reduce suffering from preventable disease and close the gaps in health care access that are related to race, income and education, recently selected Southern California’s Coachella Valley as one of its sites.