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Associated Press, Published August 25 2010

Senator sees 'gross incompetence' in IHS office

BISMARCK — The chairman of the Senate's Indian Affairs Committee says it's inexcusable that two Indian Health Service mental health positions remain vacant on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan says the director of mental health services job has been vacant a full year, while teenage suicides remain a big problem on the reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border.

The Senate committee launched an investigation into the IHS area office in Aberdeen, S.D., in June. The office oversees facilities in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska. Dorgan says he sees "gross incompetence" and he wants answers from the IHS.

The Aberdeen IHS office referred a request for comment to a national IHS spokesman. Thomas Sweeney said it was premature for the agency to comment before first replying directly to Dorgan.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.