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Retiring United Helpers CEO reflects on health care’s darkest hour

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 12:31 PM EDT
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OGDENSBURG, N.Y. (WWNY) - Sticking it out. United Helpers CEO Steve Knight did that during health care’s darkest hour. Now, he’s retiring as head of United Helpers.

The turn of the year was a grim time at United Helpers nursing homes. COVID-19 was sweeping through and patients were dying. It was hard on staff.

“How much they worried about the potential of giving someone COVID, infecting their fellow employees. You know, that added strain, it’s amazing people fared as well as they did,” said Knight.

It was even harder on families, not just in those months, but all year, especially once all visitations were ended.

“We had people at doors, we had people doing FaceTime and any way we could to connect. But it’s not the same as sitting next to your loved one holding their hand, having lunch with them,” said Knight.

It’s not that health care didn’t have its challenges to begin with. In 33 years, Knight has seen plenty. But he says he’s always been mindful of why they do it.

“The people we serve have contributed to the county and their community for decades and it’s up to us to help them when they need help,” said Knight.

United Helpers is probably best known for its Ogdensburg and Canton nursing homes. But, it also provides services such as mental health clinics, group homes, senior housing and others.

It’s also one of St. Lawrence County’s largest employers.

More than 800 people work for United Helpers, the majority full-time. Even after a year full of grief and worry, Knight says he would advise young people to go into health care.

“It’s an important field. I think it’s going to be more important in the future,” he said.

The biggest challenge? Frozen state reimbursements for nursing homes. It’s something Knight says has hurt quality of care in the industry. It’s something he hopes can change.

Todd Amo will take over for Steve Knight upon his retirement.

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