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HME Provider of the Year: Stephens meets curveballs head-on

HME Provider of the Year: Stephens meets curveballs head-on

HONESDALE, Penn. – Todd Stephens, COO of Stephens Pharmacy/Northeast Med-Equip, credits the hard work of his team, especially during a pandemic, for elevating the company to a 2021 HME Provider of the Year. 

“What I’m most proud of is understanding what our team had to go through to achieve that result,” he said. 

Stephens Pharmacy/Northeast Med-Equip was named one of two HME Providers of the Year at the virtual HME News Business Summit in September. 

When the pandemic reared its ugly head, Stephens Pharmacy closed its doors – but only to move operations outside. 

“We basically did curbside service,” said Stephens. “If someone needed to get fitted for a knee brace or diabetic shoes, we had people protected with PPE at the curb ready to take care of it.” 

That was the first curveball. The second came when school districts and local municipalities started contacting Stephens Pharmacy asking for gloves, face masks and sanitizer. The company’s traditional suppliers had run out almost immediately, which prompted staff to think outside the box. When Stephens heard that a local distillery transitioned part of its operations to make hand sanitizer, he loaded his pickup with 5-gallon buckets of hand sanitizer and distributed the first two or three loads at cost. The company also stocked PPE, passing those items on at little or no margin when prices skyrocketed. 

All providers would agree the pandemic turned their businesses upside down, but for Stephens Pharmacy/Northeast Med-Equip, the pandemic was only the start of their challenges in 2020, says Stephens. 

“April, May, June – we were kind of in the swing of things and then we had three, back-to-back internal tragedies,” he said. 

A long-time member of the billing team suffered a stroke on the job; founding employee and general manager, Tina Augello, came in on a Friday and passed away unexpectedly in her home on Sunday; and Stephens’ wife, a nurse educator, became a tetraplegic when she was struck by a truck in a head-on collision. 

“So not only did our team endure the pandemic, but they endured tragic, human loss” said Stevens. “They put their heads down and they got the job done. And it still blows my mind to this day that that's how we got through 2020.”


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