Leadership Bios and Photos

DHW Director Alex J. Adams is supported by four deputy directors, eight division administrators, and three director's office chiefs.

Director's office

  

Alex J. Adams 

Director

Alex J. Adams, PharmD, MPH, serves as director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. He was appointed to lead the department by Gov. Brad Little in May 2024.

The department has a staff of nearly 3,000 and an annual budget of $5.5 billion. Dr. Adams is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of all Idahoans, with the following goals for the department:

Strengthening child welfare. Promoting upward mobility. Improving behavioral health. Reducing the regulatory burden on department stakeholders.

Prior to leading the department, Dr. Adams spent more than five years as Governor Little’s budget and regulatory director. In this capacity, he oversaw the state’s first upgrade to a AAA credit rating with both Fitch Ratings and Moody’s. He helped lead development of major policy initiatives such as Idaho LAUNCH and the financing of $1.5 billion in school facility infrastructure improvements. He helped build the rainy-day funds to the largest fund balance in state history. He also led the Governor’s zero-based regulation initiative, which led to Idaho becoming the least regulated state in the nation, eliminating more than 2,700 pages of regulations.

He earned his bachelor’s degree and Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Toledo in Ohio, graduating as class valedictorian, and his Master of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. Dr. Adams lives in Eagle with his wife, Jennifer, and daughter, Emerson.

Monty Prow

Deputy Director 

Child, Youth, & Family Services

Monty Prow has worked to support youth and families since 2002. He has served as director of the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections for the past five years and has risen within the organization with more than 20 years of experience in research, project management, quality improvement and most recently administration. Prow holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Boise State University. While not at work, he enjoys spending time with his wife riding bikes and playing with their mini-labradoodle.
Juliet Charron

Deputy Director 

Medicaid & Behavioral Health

Juliet Charron served as the Idaho Medicaid administrator since November 2021 and was promoted to deputy director in June 2024. As Medicaid administrator she oversaw administration for the Idaho Medicaid program serving approximately 350,000 Idahoans. Prior to her move to Idaho, she held leadership positions with the Texas Medicaid program and the Texas Office of Inspector General. Charron previously worked in government programs and compliance roles within a community-based health plan in Arizona. Charron received her bachelor’s degree in public policy, planning and management from the University of Oregon. She holds a Master’s Degree in public health from the University of Arizona.

Michael Pearson

Deputy Director

Operations

Michael Pearson has worked as state financial officer for the state of Idaho, in charge of oversight of the financial operations and policy for Idaho’s Executive Branch. Prior to this role, he spent 12 years as CFO at the Department of Fish and Game where he was instrumental in the bonding and construction of a new headquarters for the department. It was completed on time and under budget during the pandemic. Pearson believes in a culture of value-added customer service, and empowering others through predictable leadership. In 2022, he was elected to the board of trustees for his alma mater, the College of Idaho. In his spare time, Pearson enjoys gourmet cooking, golf, and spending time with his amazing kids.
Miren Unsworth

Deputy Director

Health & Human Services 

Miren Unsworth has spent 24 years working in service to children, families, and vulnerable adults, including 21 years at DHW, serving as deputy director and division administrator, among other positions. Unsworth received her bachelor’s degree in social work from Idaho State University and her Master's Degree in Social Work from Portland State University. She also holds an executive certificate in multi-system integration from the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. Unsworth is a native Idahoan. She enjoys travel and spending time outdoors, and especially enjoys spending time with her husband, Jeremy, and her 17-year-old son, Owen.
Jared Larsen

Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Chief

Office of the Director 

Jared Larsen is the legislative and regulatory affairs chief at DHW where he coordinates public policy formation and legislative outreach. Larsen received a bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish from Brigham Young University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Idaho College of Law. Prior to joining DHW, for five and a half years he was counsel and policy advisor to Idaho Gov. Brad Little. His policy areas included criminal justice, public safety, military affairs, drug policy, public defense, behavioral health, and administrative procedure. Previously, he served as law clerk for Judge Michael P. Tribe and worked on several state and national electoral campaigns throughout the country. Larsen is a seventh generation Idahoan from the Mini-Cassia area.
Misty Lawrence

Chief Financial Officer

Office of the Director 

Misty Lawrence has dedicated nearly two decades to public service, working to promote fiscal responsibility and transparency in the state. Before arriving at DHW in June 2024, she served as budget bureau chief for the Division of Financial Management. Her extensive experience also includes a 12-year tenure at the Board of Pharmacy, where she served as the fiscal officer and held various other roles. Outside of her professional responsibilities, Misty enjoys the natural beauty of Idaho with her husband and their three dogs. She cherishes time spent with her family, particularly her two granddaughters, and takes every opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. Misty is a Montana native with deep Idaho roots as her mother is a fifth generation Idahoan. She moved to Idaho in 2001.
Monica Young

Communications Director

Office of the Director

Bio and photo coming soon.

 

 

DHW divisions
Behavioral Health
Ross Edmunds 

Administrator

Division of Behavioral Health

Ross Edmunds is the administrator for the Division of Behavioral Health. In this role, Ross oversees the outpatient mental health and substance use disorders treatment system in Idaho, as well as the operations of the three state psychiatric hospitals. Ross’s professional experience includes administration, management, and direct practice in outpatient treatment and inpatient mental health facilities.
Gina Westcott

Administrator

State Hospital West

Gina Westcott is the administrator for State Hospital West, a 16-bed psychiatric treatment facility for adolescents. She has worked for the Department of Health and Welfare since 1994 serving in multiple capacities over the course of her career. In the Division of Behavioral Health, Gina has provided clinical services to people with mental health challenges, managed regional mental health programs, and has worked on many statewide initiatives. She began her career over 35 years ago as a US Army behavioral science specialist providing social services to military members and their dependents. She served on active duty and as a member of the Idaho National Guard. Gina holds a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Idaho State University, a bachelor’s degree in social work from Boise State University, and is a certified public manager for the State of Idaho. 
Teresa I. Shackelford

Administrator

State Hospital North

Teresa I. Shackelford is the administrator of State Hospital North (SHN). Teresa earned her undergraduate degree in psychology and her master’s degree in social work, both from Boise State University. Teresa has worked for the Department of Health and Welfare since 2008. Prior to this role, she held various positions in the Division of Behavioral Health, including clinician, clinical supervisor, regional program manager, and a special assignment leading DBH’s transition project. Teresa is passionate about the mission of SHN and honored to lead the SHN team. She and her husband, Mike, have three adult children and are considered empty-nesters, but they’ve filled their nest with dogs.
Randy Rodriquez

Administrator

State Hospital South

Randy Rodriquez is the administrator for State Hospital South, a 110-bed adult psychiatric treatment facility and an additional 42-bed skilled nursing facility. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Idaho and his master’s degree in social work from the University of Kansas. He has worked for the Department of Health and Welfare since 1998 in multiple capacities as a licensed clinical social worker.
Youth Safety and Permanency
Jean Fisher

Administrator

Division of Youth Safety and Permanency

Jean Fisher served 33 years in the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, specializing in crimes against children, domestic violence, and sexual assault.  She was appointed chief deputy for the county's special crimes unit where she served the majority of her career.  Fisher supervised the criminal and child protection prosecutors for the Ada County Prosecutor's Office.  Fisher led the county's multi-disciplinary team meetings coordinating child abuse investigations between law enforcement, Idaho Department of Health & Welfare risk assessment workers, medical, school, probation and the prosecutor's office.  She wrote the standing protocols for the meetings that are still used today as well as protocols for Drug Addicted Babies, Child Exposure to Methamphetamine, and Paramedics Response to Domestic Violence for Faces of Hope. Fisher served on the Idaho Sex Offender Management Board for 12 years, and after retiring from the Ada County Prosecutor's Office in November of 2021, she has worked as Director of Curriculum for Building Hope Today, a non-profit that provides specific child sexual abuse training to MDTs across the state of Idaho. She also worked as the Idaho state director for Right on Crime, a non-profit interested in criminal justice reform.
Jamie Newton

Administrative Director

Southwest Idaho Treatment Center

Jamie Newton is the administrative director of the Southwest Idaho Treatment Center. She has worked for the department since 1997 and was promoted to her current position in 2016. She has more than 30 years of experience working with and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is currently working on a project team with others in DHW to improve the system of care for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and experiencing crisis. She is a graduated from the University of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in general studies with an emphasis in psychology.
Family and Community Partnerships
Laura C. Denner

Administrator

Division of Family and Community Partnerships 

Laura Denner was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon, but considers herself almost native, having relocated to Idaho in 2002. She is a graduate of Boise State University with a B.A. in Sociology, and will complete her Master's of Public Administration in December 2024. She also holds a graduate certificate in State, Local, and Regional Governance from Boise State. Laura most recently worked for the Idaho Supreme Court, holding roles as a Project Manager for the Idaho Behavioral Health Council (IBHC) and Deputy Trial Court Administrator. For the IBHC, she is a trained facilitator for statewide Sequential Intercept Model Mapping Workshops. She held prior roles in program administration for Ada County, and worked with behavioral health clients at the Idaho Department of Correction.
Information Technology Services
Chuck Weber 

Administrator

Division of Information Technology Services

Chuck Weber is the administrator of the Division of Information Technology Services. He has over 25+ years of experience in healthcare, financial services, technology and operations. He joined DHW in February 2022.
Licensing and Certification
Laura Stute

Administrator

Division of Licensing and Certification

Laura Stute is the administrator for the Division of Licensing and Certification. Prior to joining DHW in 2022, she spent 18 years working in healthcare. She has served in both clinical and leadership roles focused on regulatory compliance, patient safety, and improving clinical outcomes. Laura spent the majority of her healthcare career working in the inpatient rehabilitation setting where she focused on program development for disease-specific accreditations from the Joint Commission and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). She has a master’s degree in speech-language pathology from Plattsburgh State University.
Management Services
 
Staci Phelan

Administrator

Division of Management Services

 

Staci Phelan is the administrator for the Division of Management Services. She oversees finance, contracting/purchasing, building and support operations, audits and investigations, department and division budgets, accounts payable, revenue operations, grants and cash, electronic benefits, financial systems, and employee services. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, a master’s degree in Public Administration, and a doctorate in Higher Education Administration. Staci’s more than 20 years of professional experience includes fiscal and budget oversight and forecasting, personnel administration, team building, strategic planning, compliance, data analytics, policy development, internal audit, grant management, and financial reporting in the public and private sectors.
Public Health
Elke Shaw-Tulloch

Administrator

Division of Public Health

Elke Shaw-Tulloch is the administrator of the Division of Public Health, and the state’s public health officer. She has worked for the department since 1996 and was promoted to division administrator in 2012.
Dr. Christine Hahn

State Epidemiologist 

Dr. Christine Hahn is Idaho’s state epidemiologist and the Division of Public Health’s medical director. She is board certified in infectious disease and works in an Idaho tuberculosis clinic twice monthly. She also serves on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Dr. Kathryn Turner

Deputy State Epidemiologist 

Dr. Kathryn Turner is the deputy state epidemiologist in the Division of Public Health. She has worked for the department for 17 years and oversees the epidemiology, immunization, food protection, communicable disease surveillance, and refugee health screening programs for the division.
Dr. Christopher Ball

Laboratory Bureau Chief 

Dr. Christopher Ball is the laboratory bureau chief for the Division of Public Health, Bureau of Laboratories, where he serves as the laboratory director and clinical consultant. Dr. Ball is certified in molecular diagnostics by the American Board of Bioanalysis and serves as co-chair of the Governor’s Coronavirus Testing Task Force.
Welfare / Self-Reliance
Jennifer Palagi

Interim Administrator

Division of Welfare / Self-Reliance 

Jennifer Palagi, Interim Administrator, has been with the department since 2021, serving as deputy director for three years and now as administrator (Interim) for the Division of Self-Reliance. Jennifer is a doctoral prepared nurse (DNP, RN) and has a Master of Public Health (MPH). She holds degrees from West Virginia Wesleyan College, Idaho State University, and Boise State University. She also holds a Certification in Infection Control & Epidemiology (CIC). Prior to coming to the Department, Jennifer worked mainly in non-profit healthcare, where she was the Vice President of Community Health. She also worked in healthcare at Micron Technology and Comagine Health. Originally from West Virginia, Jennifer moved to Boise 28 years ago. Jennifer lives in Boise with her Idaho-native husband and children, two teen daughters; she also has three adult nephews, who she raised as her own (kinship care). For fun Jennifer likes to walk with her three dogs (at the same time), fly-fish with her dad, snowboard in the winter, do fun runs with friends, and golf. You can also catch her enjoying many community arts, from staged productions to live music in a park.