Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Deborah L. Stephens is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Behavioral Health Systems, Inc. (BHS). Established in 1989 as a privately held corporation headquartered in Birmingham, AL, her organization created and administers a national preferred provider organization of 70,000+ behavioral health-related hospitals, physicians and professionals. BHS administers the mental health, substance abuse and employee assistance program benefits on behalf of 600+ employers and 500,000+ beneficiaries nationwide. In addition to overseeing the care provided through this network and processing all claims between the employer-client and BHS providers, the organization offers complementary behavioral health-related programs and services including drug testing, wellness, education & training, and behavioral workers’ comp. Ms. Stephens became a principal shareholder of BHS in 2015 and has been chairman of the board of directors since inception.
Prior to founding BHS, Ms. Stephens was the EVP/CFO of Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Hospital and its holding company Medical Rehabilitation Institute, in Milwaukee, WI for 11 years. She also held positions with Unicare Health Facilities and Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee and the University of Iowa College of Medicine in Iowa City. Before embarking upon her illustrious career, Ms. Stephens received a Bachelor of Science at the University of Iowa, Kappa Kappa Gamma alumnus. She later completed postgraduate coursework at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and the University of California, Berkeley. A notable educational experience for Ms. Stephens was attending junior high school at the Theodor Fliedner School for Girls in Germany, where her father started the first European division of Maytag Corporation, and where she learned fluent German.
A sought-after health care consultant and speaker, Ms. Stephens has contributed her expertise as a consultant on hospital administration and finance, short- and long-range planning, corporate start-ups, acquisitions and governance, and zero-based budgeting. She served on the oral examining boards for the City of Milwaukee and Jefferson County and was active on the prospective payment advisory committee for the Dept. of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. and was a founding member of the American Rehabilitation Network, Inc., based in Delaware. Ms. Stephens has presented nationally on zero-base budgeting, corporate reorganization and planning, workers’ compensation, managed psychiatric care and substance abuse, and most recently on opioid abuse treatment options and the overuse of psychotropic medications to regional and national organizations.
Affiliated with multiple industry-related organizations nationally, Ms. Stephens was active on the governing board of the Healthcare Financial Management Association and the Prospective Payment Advisory Board of the National Association of Rehabilitation Facilities. Locally, Ms. Stephens has served as a member of the Business Council of Alabama’s health care cost containment committee. Among other memberships, she has served as a trustee for the Birmingham Business Alliance since 2005. Moreover, Ms. Stephens is a 26-year member of the Rotary Club of Birmingham (2009 board member), the Venture Club, and BHS is a member of the Midwest Business Group on Health. Ms. Stephens also served as chairman of the Applecross homeowners association for 8 years.
Renowned for 30+ years of success, BHS has maintained an 89% employer-client retention rate since inception in 1989 and a staff turnover rate that has averaged less than 3% per year since inception. Among other recognitions, the organization has also maintained a 96% patient satisfaction rate since 1994. BHS currently ranks among the 10 largest in the nation among similar companies, with a regional office in Chicago, IL. Ms. Stephens, specifically, has been named One of the Top 5 Thriving Business Women in Birmingham by Business to Business magazine in 1995 and One of the Top 78 National Entrepreneurs by Entrepreneur magazine in 1996. She has been featured in Healthwatch, Business Alabama, the Birmingham News, Managed Healthcare Magazine, Open Minds, Birmingham Magazine, the Birmingham Post Herald and the Birmingham Business Journal, Who’s Who in Health Care (8 times) for her successes as well. In 2019 Ms. Stephens was awarded the Albert Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis Who’s Who.
In her personal life, Ms. Stephens dotes on her three dogs, and devotes much of her spare time and resources to charitable causes such as PETA, the ASPCA, and other animal rights organizations, as well as environmental protection agencies. She enjoys travel, reading, and finds only the highest level of zero sudoku puzzles to be challenging!