President and Chief Executive Officer
Debra Rex, M.A., M.Ed., Beech Brook’s President and Chief Executive Officer, has spent her entire professional career in leadership roles in the service of children, youth and families.
Educational and Employment History
Debra earned her Master’s degree in Communications with a cognate in business management in 1976. In 1993, she earned a Master’s degree in Community Agency Counseling. Debra also has extensive training and post graduate study in organization development and was an organizational management consultant for several years. Debra started her career as Assistant Director and then Director of the Upward Bound program of Baldwin-Wallace College from 1976-81. She then was the founding Executive Director of the award-winning Bellflower Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse, a role she held for nine years. During that time she chaired the Department of Children’s Services’ Community Advisory Board. Debra joined the administration of Beech Brook in 1991 and quickly rose to the senior leadership position as Assistant Executive Director, then becoming Chief Operating Officer as part of a two person Executive Office Team with Mario Tonti. In 2004, Debra served as interim President and CEO of Beech Brook during Mario’s leave of absence and retained the CEO position upon his return as President in 2005. In July 2013, Debra assumed the role of both President and CEO.
During her leadership at Beech Brook, Debra has been largely responsible for the strategic planning, change management, learning orientation and operations of the agency. In concert with the President, Debra was crucial in the shift of Beech Brook from a primarily residential treatment organization to an agency which provides extensive community based services, several of which are innovative and/or best practice interventions. Specialty areas of innovation Debra drove include national demonstration grants in adoption and health and human services, creation of cutting edge programming in attachment issues, concurrent planning, parenting programs for teen mothers, treatment of complex trauma, early childhood mental health, and the award-winning Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Program for 16-22-year-olds who are severely and persistently mentally ill. Debra also provided leadership in the successful attainment of three federal grants and many grants from local foundations. Under Debra’s leadership at Beech Brook the agency strategically grew from a budget of 6 million to 26 million dollars and increased the number of employees from 75 to 450, more than quadrupling the numbers of children and families receiving services.
Debra is currently a board member of the Cleveland Free Clinic and serves on the Advisory Committee of the Hospice of the Western Reserve. She is past Chair of the Summit County Alliance of Child Caring Providers, is a board member of the Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies (OACCA), and is Chair of the North East Ohio Steering Committee of the Mental Health Advocacy Coalition (MHAC). In 2013, Debra was elected as the first Board Chair of the State Mental Health Advocacy Coalition. Debra also served on the national committee of the Child Welfare League of America, which set standards in governance and administration of child welfare agencies.
Debra’s recent professional honors include: 2014 Behavioral Healthcare Champion by Behavioral Healthcare magazine; Lobbyist of the Year awarded by Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies, 1995; Nominated for Non-Profit Administrator of the Year, Mandel School of Non-Profit Management, CWRU, 1996; Suzanne B. Harrison Award for Exceptional Service to Children, 2005; Ohio Association of Child Caring Agency’s Virginia Colson Award for Exceptional Service to Children and Families, 2010.
Debra’s skill and experience in transitioning Beech Brook from a residential agency to a community based one has been noted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation who has asked her to share her experience with agencies in workgroups, consultations and presentations. She has also done extensive presentations to professional groups around the country on leading learning organizations.
Debra lives with her husband in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and has two adult children.
Chief Financial Officer
Laura McMullen, M.B.A., C.P.A.
Executive Vice President
Thomas Royer, M.P.A.