The fast-cut trailer to the brand new film “Body Brokers” is a dizzying and seductive collage of weapons, money, habit and prostitutes, punctuated by a properly dressed man holding a finger to his pursed lips as he says: “Shhhh.”
“Physique Brokers” then drops the curtain on what it says is an open secret within the nation’s rehab trade, the place drug addicts are lowered to commodities that may be recruited and recycled for giant income, after which kicked to the curb when their insurance coverage runs out. It’s a state of affairs additionally explored by the Southern California Information Group’s 2017 challenge, “Rehab Riviera.”
The film isn’t a documentary however it’s labeled as being based mostly on precise occasions.
Nevertheless, this month, the rehab trade issued a strongly worded letter to the movie’s producer and the media, demanding the movie carry a distinct label: “fiction.”
Although they’ve solely seen the trailer, the letter, signed by behavioral well being and habit rehab consultants from all through California, say the film is sensational, irresponsible and prone to scare off addicts who want the providers supplied by authentic remedy facilities.
The tug-of-war over the unbiased, low-budget movie comes as a handful of California lawmakers step up their war against rogue substance abuse clinics. Two Orange County legislators this yr proposed or renewed payments that will power licensed remedy facilities to hold insurance coverage protection and outlaw false promoting — rules that will be new within the largely unregulated trade.
In her legislative pitch to lift requirements within the rehab trade by requiring operators to carry insurance coverage, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, D-Laguna Seaside, decried that “fraudsters and scammers” had been amok in California’s habit trade.
And that’s the world of director John Swab’s “Physique Brokers.”
Swab says he was a road junky for greater than a decade, bouncing from detox to detox all around the nation. He says he was brokered — which means he and his insurance coverage had been bought by a 3rd social gathering to a rehab operator — and that he then discovered to dealer different addicts as a part of a multi-billion greenback insurance coverage rip-off.
But, in keeping with the letter from behavioral well being consultants, Swab’s depiction of that world is wildly exaggerated.
Officers overseeing public habit remedy packages – which function in a separate universe from non-public packages – blasted the filmmaker for “a extremely inaccurate” depiction of substance use dysfunction remedy as pushed by greed quite than care.”
Veronica Kelley, director of the San Bernardino County Division of Behavioral Well being and president of the County Behavioral Well being Administrators Affiliation of California, which represents each county within the state, was amongst those that signed the letter. She stated the movie doesn’t spell out what she views as stark variations between higher-quality publicly-run packages and business, privately-run packages, the place something usually goes.
“Within the public system, as a result of we’re coping with taxpayer cash, there’s a better stage of accountability,” Kelley stated. Public packages, she famous, should not solely be licensed by the state and licensed by skilled organizations, however they’re audited yearly by state and federal officers.
She is aware of each side. A detailed relative, she stated, sought habit remedy by the non-public, business system and received caught up in a brokering state of affairs just like the transactions depicted within the movie.
“What we’re saying in our letter is, this is only one aspect. Folks don’t know the distinction between the business and the general public techniques. This represents part of the system that must be revamped, completely,” Kelley stated. “We might love for the business aspect to look extra like ours. However the movie is generalizing to say that each one substance use dysfunction remedy is predatory.”
Those that need assist by the general public system can name 800-968-2636, she stated.
Kelley’s description, nevertheless, is extra tempered than the group’s letter, which stated the “irresponsible” focus of the film may very properly value lives.
Swab stated these critics had no proper to assault his model of his personal life.
“We’re flattered individuals are speaking about it,” Swab stated. “However that is my fact. I went by this.”
Producer Jeremy Rosen stated it could be worse to look the opposite method.
“It’s wildly reckless to disregard that is taking place,” Rosen stated, though he conceded, “It’s a movie, not a documentary. There may be some poetic license.”
There have, actually, been numerous legislative changes to addiction treatment in California within the wake of Southern California Information Group’s “Rehab Riviera,” however they had been hardly sweeping. Lawmakers acknowledge that the modifications they’ve made, up to now, have solely nibbled at a a lot higher drawback.
Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris says licensed remedy facilities and people funded by the federal government ought to carry insurance coverage protection in case sufferers change into prey. However most legislators are reticent to leap into the frey.
“California regulates something that strikes,” Petrie-Norris stated. “However for some purpose … it’s been open season for scammers and fraudsters.”
Petrie-Norris has joined forces with state Insurance coverage Commissioner Ricardo Lara to push AB 1158, which might require licensed remedy facilities and different clinics that obtain authorities funding to keep up a minimal quantity of insurance coverage protection. Requirements of remedy and shopper protections would then be set to qualify for that insurance coverage.
What Lara brings is a statewide enforcement employees of 300 folks, sufficient manpower to implement primary well being guidelines within the trade — one thing that at present isn’t a part of the state regulatory system.
“There may be (now) a complete lack of regulation and oversight on this house and individuals are dying in consequence,” Petrie-Norris stated.
One other strike at “unhealthy actors” within the rehab world comes from Sen. Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, who reintroduced Senate Bill 434, which might primarily forbid remedy packages from mendacity.
Hailed by activists as a long-overdue, common sense measure, Bates’ invoice would prohibit false promoting and advertising and marketing about such fundamentals as the place a middle is situated – “on the seaside” can imply 15 miles away – and as very important as what providers are supplied.
Bate’s invoice known as Brandon’s Legislation, after Brandon Nelson. Nelson’s mother and father had been instructed he was going to a state-of-the-art psychological well being care program the place he’d be intently monitored by a licensed therapist and a psychiatrist. In actuality, Nelson wound up in an unlicensed, unregulated “sober living home mental health facility” in San Clemente, where he had a psychotic break and hung himself in 2018.
That is Bates’ third try to get the invoice enacted. Nonetheless, Brandon’s father, Allen, of Santa Monica, stays hopeful.
“It’s clearly disappointing that it wasn’t signed the primary time, however we’re definitely in for the lengthy haul,” he stated.
The proposal would authorize the California Division of Well being Care Companies to research allegations of misconduct at rehab facilities and impose sanctions when warranted.
“If that is handed and enforced, it can convey significant change for the patron,” stated David Skonezny, founding father of “It’s Time for Ethics in Habit Therapy,” a personal Fb group of greater than 5,600 remedy professionals in search of to lift the bar.
“This is without doubt one of the areas the place the career has achieved an amazing disservice to the general public by misrepresenting itself in methods nice and small.”
Skonezny, a substance abuse counselor, has been within the enterprise for years. He stated he was ready to hate the “Physique Brokers” film, however he didn’t.
“The film is a extremely correct have a look at what occurs within the for-profit, privately-funded packages which can be missing in integrity,” he stated. “This janky man operating this name heart, choosing up addicts off the road; a lady turning tips in a motel to pay for dope for her and her boyfriend, folks getting paid off throughout – yep. That’s what it seems to be like.”
Bates agrees. She has been engaged on the difficulty for years, and is hopeful the movie may lastly convey the fact dwelling to her fellow lawmakers, who’ve been sluggish to behave. She’s hoping to prepare a screening in Sacramento only for legislators.
“The person who wrote the story lived it,” she stated. “It’s hardly fiction.”