Executive Leadership

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer

Ms. 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. Read more.

Medical Director

William Patterson is medical director for BHS. He has been with the company since 1992 and has over 40 years’ experience in the medical field specializing in psychiatric conditions. He is double board certified in psychiatry and neurology and is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. Patterson has served as vice chairman and professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He has also served as director of the UAB Anxiety Disorders Program, Adult Outpatient Psychiatry Services and Psychiatry Residency Training Program at UAB. Read more.

Clinical Consultant

Willis Estis, Ed.D., LPC  has been with BHS since 1995 in the role of independent clinical consultant. In addition to providing clinical quality reviews of complex outpatient cases, Dr. Estis collaborates directly with BHS’ Medical Director and clinical staff in the development of patient care plans. He has over 40 years of experience in the mental health field providing services to a broad patient population. His professional experience includes work in acute care hospital settings and substance use disorder treatment facilities. Additionally, Dr. Estis has provided evaluation and treatment to individuals, couples and families in an outpatient setting. Read more.

Medical Director, Safety First Division

Steven Allen, M.D. is the medical director, Safety First division. He has been with the company since 2007 and has over 30 years experience in the medical field, specializing in family and occupational medicine. At BHS, Dr. Allen oversees all aspects of Safety First’s medical review services while providing quality assurance review of the drug testing process. He ensures the accuracy and integrity of lab results by determining if there are legitimate medical explanations for laboratory-confirmed positive, altered and/or invalid drug test results. Dr. Allen works daily with Safety First’s administrative staff to review complex tests and provide guidance to ensure quality. He also works directly with the president of Safety First to review appropriate procedures and policies. Read more.

Medical Review Officer, Safety First Division

Cheryl Szabo, M.D. is medical review officer, Safety First division. She has 25 years  of experience in emergency medicine, occupational health and family medicine. At BHS, Dr. Szabo assists the medical director in medical review services on behalf of Safety First’s client base. She ensures the accuracy and integrity of lab results and works closely with Safety First’s administrative staff to ensure accuracy and quality. Dr. Szabo currently serves as a physician with WorkDOT 1st. Additionally, she has experience as a medical director, onsite, for large employers. She also has experience as a staff physician in the emergency medicine and urgent care sector. Read more.

President, Safety First Division

Danny Cooner is the president, Safety First division. He has been with the company since 1996, serving in various leadership capacities within the division. Mr. Cooner’s current responsibilities include complete oversight of the drug and alcohol management and testing division. Additionally, he oversees the implementation of strategic marketing plans to ensure growth of Safety First. Under his direction, Safety First continues to see record growth year-over-year. Additionally, he serves as primary contact to many of Safety First’s largest clients including Caterpillar, Lamar Advertising and Coca-Cola United. Read more.


Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer (CIO)

Richard Covington is executive vice president & chief information officer (CIO) at BHS. Mr. Covington oversees all information technology aspects of the company including system administration as well as programming and development, eligibility maintenance and technical support.

Mr. Covington is the original author of many of the systems that BHS uses today and continues to make enhancements to better support BHS operations. He manages all interfaces between BHS and third parties, and is responsible for corporate data integrity, including Safety First development and maintenance. Read more.


Executive Vice President & Chief Clinical Officer (CCO)

Kyle Strange, LICSW is the executive vice president & chief clinical/quality officer (CCO) at BHS. He has been with BHS since 1997 and has served as the company’s chief clinical officer since 2012. Mr. Strange manages operations of the clinical services division, serves over quality assurance and compliance activities and oversees BHS’ PPO network development division. Mr. Strange also serves on multiple BHS committees including the credentialing committee alongside BHS’ medical director and senior vice president, administrative services & chief human resource officer. Read more.

Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Tina Cannon is senior vice president & chief financial officer (CFO) and has been with BHS since 2012. In her role at BHS, Ms. Cannon oversees all operations of the organization’s fiscal division. Additionally, she oversees BHS’ claims administration and plays a primary role in fiscal operations for BHS’ Safety First division. Ms. Cannon also serves on the Board of Directors at BHS. She has been instrumental in leading corporate expansion efforts alongside BHS’ marketing and corporate relations divisions. She assists in all sales efforts to provide competitive pricing and comprehensive bids and RFPs. Read more.


Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing/Corporate Relations Officer (CMO)

Shannon Goff Flanagan is senior vice president & chief marketing/corporate relations officer (CMO). She has been with BHS since 2006. At BHS, Ms. Flanagan manages the day-to-day activities of the corporate relations and marketing divisions, directs BHS’ community and public relations presence and oversees BHS’ ancillary services including BHS A.S.S.I.S.T., Wellness First and Behavioral Comp Management. Among Ms. Flanagan’s accomplishments are maintaining a 85+% client retention rate among BHS’ book-of-business and direct oversight of the sales, implementation and account management of BHS’ national membership as well as the State of Alabama employee assistance program provided to 65,000 state employees and their families. Read more.

Vice President of Administrative Services & Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)

Ms. Vebber has more than 25 years of human resources experience and business operations in insurance, manufacturing and healthcare. Prior to joining BHS, she was at Encompass Health for ten years where served as Regional Vice President of Human Resources for the Southeast Region and then promoted to Vice President of Talent Acquisition. She has also served in director and management roles for Source Medical Solutions, Ingersoll Rand, Aurora Diagnostics, and Prudential. Ms. Vebber earned a degree in Human Resources Management from Birmingham-Southern College. Read more.


Vice President, Provider Relations

Michael Battle is Vice President, Provider Relations, at BHS. He joined BHS in 2021.  In this role, he is responsible for the continued expansion of BHS’ national PPO network, to include provider negotiations, credentialing, orientation and provider-related quality assurance.  Prior to joining BHS, Michael spent more than sixteen years with several medical managed care organizations in provider network leadership roles, involved in network development, operations, and care coordination, including eight years at VIVA Healthcare and eight years at Cigna/Healthspring. Read more.

Vice President, Clinical Services

Connie Goodman, LPC is vice president, clinical services. She is responsible for day-to-day oversight of the clinical service division, and training and supervision of the clinical staff. She also works in collaboration with the chief clinical officer in development and maintenance of clinical policies and procedures. In addition, under the guidance of the BHS medical director, Ms. Goodman oversees care management activities including acute patient care needs. She participates in the bi-weekly medical team conferences to ensure care management for both inpatient and outpatient cases. She is instrumental in maintaining BHS’ 96+% patient satisfaction rate. Read more.

Regional Vice President, Business Development

Laney Jakstys is regional vice president, business development. She has over 30 years of experience within the behavioral health industry. Her primary responsibility is developing and marketing BHS’ programs and services to employers, insurance brokers and consultants as well as industry groups. Prior to BHS, Ms. Jakstys held leadership positions with nationally recognized organizations, such as Henry Ford Health System, Ascension Health and Elements Behavioral Health. Her accolades include bridging patient and provider relationships as well as selling national EAP and mental health/substance abuse programs. Read more.

Vice President, Corporate Training & Customer Relations

Debra Nickolson is vice president, corporate training & customer relations. She has been with BHS since 2005 and is responsible for all aspects of BHS’ education & training division. Additionally, she supports corporate relations with day-to-day client management while ensuring customer satisfaction. In her current position, Ms. Nickolson oversees the development of education and training materials while also serving as the lead trainer for BHS’ managed care client base. She is instrumental in marketing multi-program training programs and focuses on mental health and wellness, work/life balance, stress and depression management as well as leadership development training. Read more.

Vice President, Safety First Division

Liz Slater is vice president, Safety First division. Liz is directly responsible for all Safety First marketing and sales efforts including on-boarding, implementation and account management.  She also works in collaboration with the president, Safety First division in the management of operations. Ms. Slater has been instrumental in the growth of Safety First over the past several years. Her national marketing presence has expanded Safety First’s client base to include a Fortune 50 company as well as membership in national organizations. Before joining Safety First, Ms. Slater was director of account services for a national drug and alcohol testing company for 10 years. Read more.