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What Silverado CEO Shook Learned From the Memory Care Operator’s Legal Ordeal

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About a year ago, Silverado CEO Shook was on a ski trip in Wyoming – his first real break in several years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – when he received a phone call that left a pit in his stomach.

“We got the message that the DA has charged Silverado with 18 felony counts,” Shook told Memory Care Business. “It was surreal, like this can’t be possible.”

Last year, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón charged Shook, along with company leaders Jason Russo and Kim Butrum, with multiple charges related to a Covid-19 outbreak in 2020 where 14 people died.

The case, which centered on the actions of Silverado leaders and employees during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, had potential legal implications for other similar companies that no doubt went through similar ordeals in the spring of 2020.

A judge has since dismissed the charges against Silverado and its leaders, and although Gascón’s office has filed to appeal the case, Shook said he and Silverado feel confident and vindicated about the road ahead.

But getting there wasn’t easy, and required hours and hours of extra work. Though Shook has dealt with civil cases before in his time as a leader in the healthcare field, a criminal case was new and carried frightening implications.

As a leader, Shook said he had to first and foremost put aside his fears of an uncertain outcome. Rather than spending time getting angry or denying the charges, Shook said he instead chose to focus on “love” in the form of all of the ways that Silverado cares for its employees and residents and tries to give them a good quality of life.

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“As humans, our first reaction [to the unknown] is to fear,” Shook said. “But our culture is based on the foundation of love being greater than fear.”

Irvine, California-based Silverado has 27 communities in 10 states.

The new legal case kicked off a roughly nine-month period of public scrutiny, wherein Shook and Silverado’s legal team got to work proving their innocence. The process required sifting through documentation as granular as medical records and employee time cards, including on the weekends or during off-hours.

Early on, it was apparent that the charges filed by the DA stemmed from an assumption that Silverado was subject to masking, testing and other public health guidelines that didn’t exist as of early 2020.

“COVID-19 tests were not made available to assisted living communities, like Silverado, until later and importantly, this matter had been previously reviewed and cleared by the California Department of Social Services (DSS),” the company wrote in a case study about its ordeal.

Silverado built a case around what it had done for residents and employees early in the pandemic.

The memory care operator had early in 2020 enacted Covid-19 policies and procedures that were “eventually adopted by other memory care providers and referenced by public health departments, licensing and other agencies as industry standard,” the company said. That included sheltering employees overnight at communities and paying out extended sick time to team members to help stop the spread of the virus.

In the end, the company’s efforts paid off in the form of the dismissal last October. Shook said that although he was obviously relieved at the outcome, so too were many of Silverado’s caregivers and other employees.

“They were emotional and tearful and said, ‘If Loren can be charged for this I knew I could be too, I thought of quitting then when those charges were filed,’” Shook said. 

Despite the victory, Shook and Silverado still have the appeal to put to rest. But he feels confident that the company has successfully made its case, and is not worried about what comes next.

“We won this case,” he said. “The teams in our company did everything right. So, we don’t have any fear of justice prevailing.”

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