DHHS Director's Office Leadership


The Director of the Department of Health and Human Services is appointed by the governor to lead a staff of more than 6,100 and manage a biennial budget of $9.8 billion in state and federal funds. In addition, the DHHS Director serves in an advisory capacity as a member of the Governor's Cabinet.

Richard Whitley

Richard Whitley was appointed to the position of Director of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) by Gov. Brian Sandoval on June 15, 2015.

As DHHS Director, Whitley oversees the six divisions that provide both direct services and public assistance programs for Nevadans in need: Aging and Disability Services, Child and Family Services, Health Care Financing and Policy (Medicaid), Public and Behavioral Health, Welfare and Supportive Services, and the state Public Defender. The efforts of DHHS comprise nearly one-third the entire state budget.

Whitley began state service as the senior psychologist for the Nevada Women’s Correctional Facility in 1986. He joined DHHS in 1997 within the Health Division’s Bureau of Disease Control and Intervention Services. Whitley held several positions within the Health Division before being asked to serve as its administrator in 2008. His responsibilities expanded in 2012 when he was asked to also serve as administrator for the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services. The two divisions officially merged in 2013, and Whitley became the first administrator of the newly created Division of Public and Behavioral Health.
Whitley holds a Bachelor’s degree from Willamette University, in Oregon, and a Master of Science degree in Counseling Psychology from Western Oregon University.

Deputy Directors

Serving under the Director, DHHS Deputy Directors manage fiscal, personnel, information and other issues affecting the entire department.

Vanessa Alpers
Vanessa Alpers serves as the department’s Deputy Director for Fiscal Services, providing oversight to the department’s six divisions which comprise nearly one-third of the entire state budget. Vanessa has been with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services for 20 years, beginning her career in the Department with the Nevada State Health Division. Vanessa has served in the Nevada state system as a Grants & Projects Analyst, Health Program Specialist, Management Analyst, Administrative Services Officer and as the Deputy Administrator, Administrative Services with the Division of Public and Behavioral Health. Vanessa holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management.
Deborah A. Harris
Deborah A. Harris is the department's Deputy Director for Administrative Services, providing oversight over human resources, public relations and legislative liaison activities. Deborah returned to DHHS in 2015 after working for two years at the state Division of Human Resource Management. Prior to 2013, Deborah worked for the Division of Public and Behavioral Health as chief of the Child, Family and Community Wellness Bureau, and for the Division of Child and Family Services as a senior personnel officer. Deborah holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from the University of California, and a Master of Arts in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix.
Julie Kotchevar

Julie Kotchevar has extensive experience working within the field of health and human services programs, particularly in the field of children and adults with disabilities.  She has worked nationally and internationally for over 15 years to create efficient and agile systems that can skillfully respond to the changing needs of consumers while also ensuring that services are person centered, ethical, appropriate, and evidence-based.  Within Nevada and nationally she has worked with state programs to identify and repair broken and inefficient systems.  Internationally she worked to develop systems in several countries including primary and maternity care in central China, basic health and assessment services in rural parts of Indonesia, and early intervention systems for children and families in the Southern Sudan.

Ms. Kotchevar has served in the Nevada state system as an Executive Branch Auditor, the Clinical Program Manager of Nevada Early Intervention Services, and as the Deputy Administrator of Aging and Disability Services Division before joining the Director's Office as the Deputy Director.

Ms. Kotchevar has recently completed her Doctorate in Social Services Policy Planning and Analysis, has a Master's degree in Organizational Management and a Bachelor's degree in Elementary and Special Education.

Division Administrators

Each DHHS division — Aging and Disability Services, Child and Family Services, Public and Behavioral Health, Welfare & Supportive Services, and Health Care Financing and Policy — is led by an administrator who reports to DHHS Director Whitley.

Dena Schmidt
Kelly Wooldridge
Amy Roukie
Steve Fisher
Marta Jensen
Karin Kreizenbeck
Nevada State Public Defender