Date: November 23, 2020
Contact: Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936, (406) 461-3757, jebelt@mt.gov
                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391, (406) 461-8367, hcouncil@mt.gov

DPHHS Announces COVID-19 Vaccination Plan Coordination Team

First meeting is Tuesday, November 24 at 10 a.m.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) announced today the formation of the COVID-19 Vaccination Plan Coordination Team comprised of key stakeholders from various sectors across the state, many of who are already established COVID-19 crisis response partners.

“Montana continues to tighten its preparations for a successful distribution of COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available,” said Bekki Wehner, head of the DPHHS Communicable Disease Control and Emergency Preparedness Bureau. “I appreciate all those who have agreed to serve on the Coordination Team to ensure that a broad range of Montana organizations are represented. The team’s guidance, feedback and insights on the State’s draft distribution plan will be invaluable in the on-going planning and implementation efforts.” 

The Coordination Team’s first meeting will be held virtually on Tuesday, November 24 from 10 a.m. to noon. DPHHS officials will provide the team with an overview of the state’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, an update on vaccine provider enrollment, long term care facility and pharmacy partnerships, update on vaccine types, Tribal jurisdiction allocations, how doses will be tracked, the vaccine authorization process, and initial vaccine allocation recommendations.

News media wanting to call into the virtual meeting are asked to RSVP by emailing DPHHS at dphhspio@mt.gov. Time will be set aside at the end for media questions.

The over 60-member team includes a broad range of organizations representing health systems and hospitals, local county health departments, Tribal governments, long term care facilities, correctional facilities, emergency management services, rural health clinics, pharmacies, business and occupational health organizations, individuals with disabilities, educational agencies and providers, religious leaders, organizations serving racial and ethnic minorities and people with limited English proficiency, and community representatives.

The team specifically includes those who represent individuals most at-risk for COVID-19. Based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Phase 1 of the State’s vaccine distribution plan calls for the initial limited vaccine supply to be offered to people at the highest risk of life-threatening infection. Those included in Phase 1 include healthcare frontline workers, the elderly, those with underlying medical conditions and those at increased risk such as Tribal communities, long term care facilities and other congregate settings.

Key roles for the Coordination Team will be communication with their constituents and partners to ensure they have current information about when the vaccine will arrive in the state, training that will be available to providers about how to properly handle and store the vaccine, and coordination regarding outreach to critical at-risk populations identified to receive the vaccine in Phase 1.

Team members and organizations include:

Health systems and hospitals

  • Heather O’Hara, Montana Hospital Association; Vicky Byrd, Montana Nurses Association; Joyce Dombrouski, Providence Montana

Local health departments

  • Eric Merchant, Association of Montana Public Health Officials; Lora Wier, Montana Public Health Association

Tribal governments

  • Laura Upham, Blackfeet Nation; Lauren Corcoran, Chippewa Cree Tribe; Chelsea Kleinmeyer, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes; Erin Birdinground-McCleary, Crow Nation; Jennifer Show, Fort Belknap Tribes; Kaci Wallette, Fort Peck Tribes; Molly Wendland, Little Shell Tribe; Serena Wetherwelt, Northern Cheyenne Tribe; Elizabeth Williams, All Nations Health Center; Kim Brown, Billings Urban Indian Health and Wellness Center; Todd Wilson, Helena Indian Alliance; Shannon Parker, Northern American Indian Alliance; Angela Troutt, Billings Area Indian Health Services; Mary Lynn Billy, Indian Family Health Clinic

Long term care facilities

  • Rose Hughes, Montana Health Care Association

Correctional facilities

  • Cindy Hiner, Montana Department of Corrections

Emergency Management Services

  • Mike Radke, Disaster and Emergency Services; KC Williams, Yellowstone County Disaster and Emergency Services; Dale Butori, Fallon County Disaster and Emergency Services

Rural health

  • Cindy Stergar, Montana Primary Care Association


  • Stuart Doggett and Michael Matovich, Montana Family Pharmacies

Business and occupational health organizations

  • Todd O’Hair, Montana Chamber of Commerce

Health insurance issuers and plans

  • Tim Wetherill, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana; Dr. Stephen Tahta, Allegiance; Richard Miltenberger, Mountain Health CO-OP; Matt Bell and Jen Hensley, PacificSource Health Plans

Organizations serving individuals with disabilities

  • Bernie Franks-Ongoy, Disability Rights Montana; Scott Birkenbuel, Statewide Independent Living Council; Travis Hoffman, Summitt Independent Living; Joel Peden, Montana Independent Living Project; Deb Swingley, Montana Council on Developmental Disabilities; Patrick Maddison, Montana Association of Community Disability Services

Educational agencies and providers

  • Clayton Christian, Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education; Diedre Murray, Montana University System; Kirk Miller, School Administrators of Montana

Churches and religious leaders

  • Kendra Wilde, Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church; Student Rabbi Erik Uriarte, Congregation Beth Aaron

Organizations serving racial and ethnic minority groups

  • Kathe Quittenton, DPHHS State Refugee Coordinator; Bonnie Saywer, Hopa Mountain; Allison Paul, Montana Legal Services Association; Judith Hielman, The Montana Racial Equity Project

Organizations serving people with limited English proficiency

  • Vicki Thuesen, Montana Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Council

Community representatives

  • Eric Bryson, Montana Association of Counties; Liz Moore, Montana Non-Profit Association

Mental health representative

  • Matt Kuntz, National Alliance on Mental Illness-Montana

Behavioral health

  • Mary Windecker, Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana

Adult and child congregate group homes

  • Matt Bugni, AWARE, Inc.

Home health workers

  • Jacquie Helt, SEIU 775 Healthcare; Janessa White and Katie Spaid, Consumer Direct

Childcare and early childhood

  • Meghan Ballenger, Montana Child Care Resource and Referral Network; Patty Butler, DPHHS Early Childhood and Family Services Division/Child Care Licensing

Homeless shelters

  • Amy Allison Thompson, Poverello Center

Organizations on aging

  • Nancy Anderson, AARP; Kris Spanjian, Big Sky 55+; Adrianne Cotton, Montana Area Agencies on Aging Association


  • Emma Merle Hunter, Montana Federation of Public Employees


The DPHHS website is being redesigned and will be moved to a new platform in July. 
Please be aware that some bookmarks to the DPHHS site may need to be updated after the move.
Thank you for your patience while we complete this move.