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Oregon Health Authority equity director fired

Leann Johnson was terminated after more than decade working at the state, including eight years as head of a division charged with overseeing internal workplace complaints
The Oregon Health Authority headquarters in Salem | JAKE THOMAS/THE LUND REPORT
June 21, 2024

A longtime Oregon Health Authority manager who oversaw programs aimed at addressing health disparities has been fired, for reasons that are unclear. 

Leann Johnson, director of Oregon Health Authority’s Equity and Inclusion Division, held a major role at the agency. The health authority announced in a press release Friday that she had “left her position after more than eight years heading the division.”

“I can confirm I was terminated,” Johnson told The Lund Report in a brief interview Friday afternoon before declining to comment further. 

Earlier that day, Johnson wrote on Facebook that she had been given the opportunity to resign from her position after more than 13 years working for the state. She was fired after refusing to do so, she wrote. 

The division is allocated $52.7 million in the agency's two-year budget, funding a staff of 86 who administer the state’s traditional health worker program, health care interpreter program, civil rights complaint investigations and other responsibilities.

The division is assigned a key role in the health authority’s goal of eliminating health inequities by 2030.

The firing of a top manager would likely require the involvement of the agency's director, Sejal Hathi. The state press release gave no reason for the change, but included a prepared statement attributed to Hathi.

“The Equity and Inclusion Division is vital to OHA and the communities we serve,”  she said, according to the statement. “It’s important for us to ensure that the Equity and Inclusion Division is not alone in the work to change our policies and programs, dismantle systemic racism and meet the needs of the communities most harmed by health inequities.”

The health authority announced that Johnson will be replaced by Alfonso Ramirez, the Behavioral Health Division’s equity and community partnerships manager, who will serve in an interim capacity. The health authority will begin a national search for permanent replacement this summer. 

Remarks about “culture building and team building” made by Hathi during the May 7 meeting of the Oregon Health Policy Board sparked speculation that management changes were in the works. 

“I want every member of the leadership team to feel like they have each other’s backs and we’re in this together,” she added. “And I’m not sure that we are there right now.”

Hathi said that she valued building trust among the agency’s team, along with a sense of “belonging and ownership in our mission and vision.” She continued that she wanted a “culture where you don’t talk about people, you talk to people.”

You can reach Jake Thomas at [email protected] or via Twitter @jthomasreports