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Noem cancels transgender health worker contract, group responds

Gov. Kristi Noem delivers her 2022 State of the State speech.
Gov. Kristi Noem delivers her 2022 State of the State speech.

Gov. Kristi Noem is cancelling a contract that would help prop up a liaison to help transgender individuals navigate the healthcare system.

Noem made the move after responding to questions from a conservative media outlet.

The $136,000 contract was funded with federal money through the Centers for Disease Control. It looked to establish more community health workers. Those are described as “public health workers who are a trusted member” of certain communities.

A spokesperson for the governor’s office told The Daily Signal it does not support the Transformation Project’s efforts. That’s a local group that advocates for transgender individuals.

In a written statement, the Transformation Project says the contract cancellation came as a complete shock with no advanced warning. They say it appears the contract was cancelled based on the population it serves and that it’s reviewing available options and seeking legal advice.

Days after the report, Department of Health Secretary Joan Adam announced her retirement after holding the position for less than a year. Adam spent 20 years in the department and was appointed in March.

“My time with the Department of Health has been very rewarding. The dedication of the Department’s employees is impressive and will continue to serve the state well. I am looking forward to focusing on family and personal commitments,” said Adam, in a press release from the governor's office.

The governor’s spokesperson did not return requests for comment on whether the retirement was related to the contract with the Transformation Project.

South Dakota lawmakers routinely debate bills aimed at transgender youth.

A national suicide prevention organization called the Trevor Project estimates 19 percent of LGBTQ youth in the state attempted suicide in the last year.

You can read an open letter by Transformation Project Executive Director Susan Williams here.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.