The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has appointed former Montana state Sen. Kim Gillan to lead a six-state region.

The Billings Democrat will be HHS' director of Region VIII, which includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says Gillan was chosen because of her experience in public service and her involvement in health-related policy initiatives.

Gillan said Wednesday she will be based in Denver and will begin her new duties next month.

The 61-year-old Gillan served 16 years in the Montana Legislature. She lost to Republican Steve Daines in the 2012 election for Montana's only U.S. House seat.

She was previously an energy analyst and business consultant and helped devise training programs to prepare women prisoners to re-enter the workforce.