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.

Dena Schmidt
Dena Schmidt is the department's Deputy Director of Programs, managing the Director's Office programs, including the Grants Management Unit, IDEA Part C Office, Tribal Liaison Office, Office of Consumer Health Assistance, Office of Minority Health, and Nevada 2-1-1. Dena also serves as liaison for the Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities. She most recently served as the Medicaid Specialist for the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services (DWSS) and formerly served as the Chief of Supportive Services for the Division of Aging and Disability Services (ADSD). She is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno.
Ellen Crecelius
Ellen Crecelius is the Deputy Director for Fiscal Services and Information Technology, providing oversight of DHHS’s six divisions on budget development and management, contracting, and other fiscal issues. Ellen also supervises the Fiscal and Research and Analysis units in the Director’s Office. In previous DHHS positions, she coordinated caseload data, developed caseload forecasts, and undertook research and statistical analysis of policy and fiscal issues. Ellen holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Connecticut with a concentration in Health Economics and Public Finance. She also holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, Davis, with majors in Economics and Russian.
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.

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.

Edward Ableser
Kelly Wooldridge
Cody Phinney
Steve Fisher
Marta Jensen
Karin Kreizenbeck
Nevada State Public Defender