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State Responds To American Indian Health Director Resignation

Sheila Hogan is director of Montana's Department of Public Health and Human Services.
State of Montana
Sheila Hogan is director of Montana's Department of Public Health and Human Services

The head of Montana's health department says she is, quote, “disappointed” to learn of the resignation of American Indian Health Director Mary Lynn-Billy Old Coyote.

Billy-Old Coyote submitted her resignation letter Saturday, a little more than a year after she was appointed to the newly created position by Governor Steve Bullock.

Billy-Old Coyote's letter says she decided to leave after being informed that her position was being moved out of the health department into the Governor's Office of Indian Affairs. She characterizes the move as indicating a lack of commitment to act on Native American health needs. The letter says, “'talking' and 'conversations' are not enough, as real change in the form of relevant and meaningful efforts is required."

A statement from state health department Director Sheila Hogan's office says that in the next few weeks her department will roll out a Tribal Health Improvement initiative that it characterizes as, quote, “game changing.” It says the initiative will provide funding for tribes to address their communities' needs with support and partnership from the state.

Neither health department Director Hogan nor Mary Lynn Billy-Old Coyote have granted interviews on the resignation. Billy-Old Coyote says she would like to stay on until August 4th. Director Hogan's office says she looks forward to quickly identifying candidates who will fulfill and advance the mission for the Office of American Indian Health that Governor Bullock laid out in his executive order creating the office in June of 2015.

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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