PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee today announced a temporary team of leaders to support the transition at the Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS) while the search continues for a permanent director.
"The team our Administration has put in place brings decades of experience in human services, state government and leadership to DHS, and I am confident in their collective ability to ensure the department remains well-supported and effective during this transition period," said Governor McKee. "I thank Yvette Mendez, Liz Tanner, Ernie Almonte, Chris Abhulime, and Rosa De Castillo for stepping forward and accepting these roles during the transition. They, along with the dedicated team across DHS, will continue to ensure access to quality services that improve the lives of Rhode Islanders.
The team includes:
Yvette M. Mendez, MPA, the Acting Director of DHS as of February 2022. She brings over 24 years of experience in the fields of community health, public policy, and education. Mendez is experienced in developing programs, building successful teams, and establishing community partnerships to improve the lives of all Rhode Islanders.
Prior to her role as interim DHS Director, Mendez served as Chief of Staff at the State of Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), where she facilitated collaboration, triaging and project management between EOHHS and the health and human services agencies. She was also key in advancing the Secretariat's priorities through policy and program implementation across agencies.
She was also previously Deputy Director at DHS for five years. In this role, her responsibilities included leading and managing communications, constituent affairs, legislative affairs, federal partnerships, childcare, community partnerships, and the divisions of the Office of Child Support and Office of Rehabilitation Services.
The following team members will support Mendez and serve on a part-time basis while continuing to fulfill their current job responsibilities:
Liz Tanner, the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, who brings many years of state government experience. Prior to that, she was the Executive Vice President of Client Services at the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. For nearly a decade, Tanner owned a law practice and owned a real estate specialty service business. Tanner received her political science degree from the University of Rhode Island and her law degree from the Western New England University School of Law.
Ernie Almonte, previously the Chief of Staff to Lt. Governor Sabina Matos who also served on the Governor's Department of Health transition support team where he focused on a thorough review of the department's budget and finances. Prior to that, he was a business, government, and process improvement specialist with more than 40 years of experience. He has provided technical assistance on accounting and financial reporting issues to businesses, along with federal, state, and local governments. He also served for 16 years as the Rhode Island Auditor General where he was responsible for the State of Rhode Island financial, performance and fraud audits. In that role, Almonte was responsible for the $8 billion CAFR, audit of the RI Lottery financial statements and IT controls, provided due diligence on casino mergers and compliance with state agreements, insight on pensions, and audits of quasi-public agencies and municipalities. He has served in numerous positions as Chairperson of audit committees including the Department of Defense Audit Advisory Committee at the Pentagon, and as a member of the Government Auditing Standards Committee for the Comptroller General of the United States.
Chris Abhulime, DVM, MS, PMHNP-BC, the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Governor's Office who also served on the Governor's Department of Health transition support team. He is an accomplished clinical/biopharmaceutical scientist with over 15 years of technical, operational, and managerial experience in clinical immunology, diagnostic testing, regulated bioanalysis, quality assurance, assay validation, clinical trials, and lab automation. He is a board certified/licensed Psychiatric-Mental Nurse Practitioner and previously served as a Research Lab Manager at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He earned a Master of Science from Regis College, a Master's degree in clinical laboratory science/medical technology from the University of Rhode Island, and a Doctor of Veterinary degree.
Rosa De Castillo, the Director of Community Affairs and Outreach in the Governor's Office. She has worked in several public and private organizations, occupying positions such as facilitator of education, curriculum development of community health educator, political campaigns, business consultant, design of community service programs, defender of charity and human development. She was also Coordinator of Youth Projects at Lifespan Community Health Services, Field Director of Girl Scouts USA, and Spanish Interpreter for the State of Rhode Island. De Castillo also has worked at the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Human Services. At the DHS, she served for several years as an interpreter and assistant for the Appeals Hearing Office.
In the coming weeks, a member of the State's Division of Information Technology will join the team.