Phx New Times: ‘Longtime Native Health Staffer Out After Sex Abuse Allegations Surface’

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Dennis Huff, the longtime head of behavioral health services at Native Health of Phoenix — which primarily serves the urban Native American community — has left the organization amid allegations of sexual abuse of students at St. Catherine’s Indian School in Santa Fe during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Last month, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe included a person named Dennis Huff on a list of 74 clergy members who had been “credibly accused of sexual misconduct over the last several decades,” according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

On Tuesday, September 26, when Phoenix New Times first contacted Native Health to ask about the accusations, Huff was identified on the nonprofit community health center’s website as a member of the leadership team, with the title of behavioral health services administrator.

Two days later, Huff was no longer listed on the website. Communications coordinator Susan Levy wrote in an email, “Regarding your inquiry, Dennis Huff is no longer employed at Native Health. Our policy is not to release any information regarding current and former employees, except dates of employment.”

On Friday afternoon, Walter Murillo, Native Health’s CEO, shared the following statement:

Dennis Huff was hired by NATIVE HEALTH in 1992, and served as an exemplary member of our administrative staff. Recently, NATIVE HEALTH received an anonymous letter with allegations against Mr. Huff involving events said to have allegedly occurred prior to his employment with our organization. NATIVE HEALTH requires all employees to pass a rigorous background check and we are not aware of any complaints during Mr. Huff’s employment, nor are there any disciplinary actions reported by the State of Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners. Mr. Huff was required to maintain a criminal background check card, which was monitored and maintained by the Arizona Department of Public Safety, for the length of his employment with us. Upon learning of the allegations against him, NATIVE HEALTH initiated an internal process to determine the best course of action, culminating in Mr. Huff’s decision to resign. During that time, Mr. Huff continued to serve in an administrative role only, with no direct client contact. NATIVE HEALTH regularly reviews our policies, procedures, and practices to ensure that we remain true to our mission providing holistic, patient-centered, culturally sensitive health and wellness services to all people.

In 2014, a lawsuit filed in New Mexico district court alleged that Huff, then a Franciscan monk at the now-defunct St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe, had sexually abused a 15-year-old boy living in the school’s dorms back in 1976. After a settlement conference, the case was dismissed in February at the plaintiff’s request.

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