PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY DAP HEALTH
The DAP Health Center in Palm Springs.
Within days after the shutdown in March 2020, Desert AIDS Project (DAP) opened its clinic for COVID-19 testing.
The Palm Springs facility synonymous for its care of the HIV-AIDS community had begun to fulfill its destiny as a full-fledged primary care provider, paving the way for a recent brand change to DAP Health. As he looked at his notes, Steven Henke found the discussion for this moment had been taking place over the last decade.
“And so it wasn’t necessarily a new idea,” says Henke, who moved from DAP’s director of community development to director of brand marketing nine months ago to take advantage of his background in the area.
“So we started meeting, talking, and we started surveying different parts of the community; our patients, our donors, and other community partners,” he adds. “We were just really asking folks what they needed us to be, what they wanted us to be. And what came back was two main things. One, it was time to update our name to more accurately reflect the work that we’re doing today and will be doing tomorrow.
But then the surprise came up, which was, “Can you find a way to step into the future, but bring your past with you,” because DAP is so much a part of how we define our pride of place in this community.
Henke speaks further on this transition to DAP Health.
Why make this brand change during a pandemic?
Because DAP is going to be doing a lot more work in the future around health equity. And I think this pandemic really showed us what happens when there’s inequality in healthcare. It just felt like the right time to make the change, because we were going to be putting together our plans for the future and a new name just more adequately reflected that work.
Dr. David Morris, chief medical officer at DAP Health, with a patient.
Did you consider whether you might confuse people or will they still recognize you?
That’s always a concern when you evolve a brand or you change a logo is, “Does it help you or does it hurt you?” And I think my approach is that the brand is never about the story you tell about yourself, it’s always how your brand makes someone else feel and it’s about the stories they tell about you. And that’s why we did a lot of listening.
Why was it important to include Health in your new name?
We wanted to tell the accurate story, and the big story was getting the word health into our name. Because at the end of the day, that’s the work we do, health. It’s the health and well-being of the community. And so getting that into our name really was to clarify our role. Because I think our older name, what we were hearing from folks was it limited their understanding of the scope of humanitarian work that DAP does.
Everyone knew that we had the expertise in HIV/AIDS, but many people didn’t know that we have a broad assortment of behavioral health care and dental care and general care, and that today over half of our patients do not have HIV. I think we, as an organization, hope that this will open up opportunity for more individuals in our community to walk through the doors if they need access to care, that they’ll feel that this is the right space for them.
Going back to when DAP started in 1984, how do the philosophies of that time and the reasons surrounding it help you now as you change your brand?
If you look at every innovation that DAP has made over the course of its history, it’s always had the common theme of a community member identifying an unmet need, another community member or the organization saying, “Well, here’s a solution.” And then a group of individuals saying, “Here’s how we’ll fund it.”
So when I look at history of DAP, it’s sort of like William Shakespeare says, “Past is prologue.” I think the answers to tomorrow’s challenges lie in DAP’s past. And one of the ways that DAP will always honor its history is it uniquely positions DAP to solve these really complicated issues. DAP is very nimble and very quickly able to use its past to look for creative solutions for tomorrow’s challenge, and I don’t think that will ever change. I think that that’s just who the organization is. It is a humanitarian organization. We say it’s an advocacy-based health center, but it’s really a humanitarian organization that continues to solve problems that other folks haven’t or won’t tackle.
Hallway at DAP Health Center leading to the Green and Blue clinics.
Do you think DAP has been seen as a Palm Springs healthcare initiative? Or have you found that you’ve been able to make inroads so that you’re seen more as a Coachella Valley-wide health initiative now?
We see patients from across the valley today as far out as Coachella, over to Desert Hot Springs and beyond. Our patients come in from beyond if they need affordable access to comprehensive care. But I would say that we have additional work to do to build relationships in some of these underserved communities that don’t know us as well. To spend more time on the east side of the valley building better relationships, or whether it’s through mobile vans or through pop-up clinics or whatever else we do, you always have to build those relationships and you build those trusts with communities that you care for.
How many patients do you serve in a course of a year?
We currently have 8,000 patients who call DAP Health their health care home.
What plans do you have for growth?
We do have plans to build additional affordable housing on our campus. We don’t have a break-ground date on that. I don’t think it’s 2021, but we got approval from the city to proceed with that plan.
And then I think you know we purchased the Riverside County Health building next to our main building. And this year we renovated half of it for two new clinic spaces for DAP. And Riverside County is building out their new building on Sunrise Avenue and Tahquitz. And when that’s complete and they move into that space, we’ll then renovate the second half of that building to further expand our general health care availability.