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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Gov. Names Director Of Office Of American Indian Health

Mary Lynne Billy-Old Coyote is the director of Montana's Office of American Indian Health.
Courtesy Montana DPHHS

A Chippewa Cree woman was named leader of Montana’s new Office of American Indian Health today. Gov. Steve Bullock named Mary Lynne Billy-Old Coyote to head the office. She’s currently interim director of the Rocky Boy Health Board, and has 20 years of experience working in Native American health. She has also worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana and New West Medicare Health Services.

Bullock announced he was creating the Office of American Indian Health in June. Billy-Old Coyote says it’s too early to say exactly what actions she’ll take when she starts the job April 11.

"The first step is to work with the coalition of the tribal health directors, as well as the state agencies. I think that’s going to be the critical starting point."

Tribal leaders asked Governor Bullock to create an Indian health director to address disparities in health outcomes between whites and Native Americans in Montana. The life expectancy of Native Americans here is 20 years shorter than it is for whites.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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