Movie about drug rehab’s dark side sparks pushback, even as legislators seek sweeping changes – Press Enterprise


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.”

Jack Kilmer as Utah and Alice Englert as Opal within the thriller “Physique Brokers.” (Picture courtesy of Vertical Leisure)

“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 decreased to commodities that may be recruited and recycled for large 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 venture, “Rehab Riviera.”

Associated: Actress Melissa Leo talks ‘Body Brokers’

The film just isn’t a documentary however it’s labeled as being primarily based 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 professional 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 12 months proposed or renewed payments that may power licensed remedy facilities to hold insurance coverage protection and outlaw false promoting — laws that may be new within the largely unregulated trade.

In her legislative pitch to boost requirements within the rehab trade by requiring operators to carry insurance coverage, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, D-Laguna Seashore, decried that “fraudsters and scammers” had been amok in California’s habit trade.

Author-director John Swab’s new movie, “Physique Brokers,” is a criminal offense thriller set on this planet of Southern California drug remedy facilities. (Picture courtesy of John Swab)

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 offered 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 line 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 fairly 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 mentioned 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 the next stage of accountability,” Kelley mentioned. 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 either side. An in depth relative, she mentioned, sought habit remedy by way of the non-public, business system and obtained 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. Individuals don’t know the distinction between the business and the general public methods. This represents part of the system that must be revamped, completely,” Kelley mentioned. “We might love for the business aspect to look extra like ours. However the movie is generalizing to say that every one substance use dysfunction remedy is predatory.”

Josh Web page holds an image of his buddy Timmy Solomon who died of an obvious drug overdose Sept. 2 at age 31. Solomon’s battle was depicted in SCNG’s Rehab Riviera protection. (Picture by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Those that need assist by way of the general public system can name 800-968-2636, she mentioned.

Kelley’s description, nevertheless, is extra tempered than the group’s letter, which mentioned the  “irresponsible” focus of the film may very nicely value lives.

Swab mentioned these critics had no proper to assault his model of his personal life.

“We’re flattered persons are speaking about it,” Swab mentioned. “However that is my fact. I went by way of this.”

Producer Jeremy Rosen mentioned it might be worse to look the opposite means.

“It’s wildly reckless to disregard that is taking place,” Rosen mentioned, though he conceded, “It’s a movie, not a documentary. There’s some poetic license.”

There have, in truth, 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 adjustments they’ve made, to date, have solely nibbled at a a lot larger drawback.

Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris says licensed remedy facilities and people funded by the federal government ought to carry insurance coverage protection in case sufferers develop into prey. However most legislators are reticent to leap into the frey. 

“California regulates something that strikes,” Petrie-Norris mentioned. “However for some cause … 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 client 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 fundamental well being guidelines within the trade — one thing that at present isn’t a part of the state regulatory system.

“There’s (now) a complete lack of regulation and oversight on this area and persons are dying in consequence,” Petrie-Norris mentioned.

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 basically 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 seashore” can imply 15 miles away –  and as very important as what providers are supplied.

Rose and Allen Nelson of Santa Monica maintain an image of their son Brandon Nelson in 2018. Brandon, who was battling psychological sickness, died at age 26 after hanging himself in an unlicensed Sovereign Well being house. (Picture by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Bate’s invoice is known as Brandon’s Legislation, after Brandon Nelson. Nelson’s mother and father had been informed he was going to a state-of-the-art psychological well being care program the place he’d be carefully 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 and 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 mentioned.

The proposal would authorize the California Division of Well being Care Companies to analyze allegations of misconduct at rehab facilities and impose sanctions when warranted.

“If that is handed and enforced, it’ll carry significant change for the buyer,” mentioned David Skonezny, founding father of “It’s Time for Ethics in Habit Remedy,” a non-public Fb group of greater than 5,600 remedy professionals in search of to boost the bar.

“This is without doubt one of the areas the place the occupation has executed 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 mentioned he was ready to hate the “Physique Brokers” film, however he didn’t.

Addicts usually cycle by way of rehab after rehab, usually solely to make use of once more. (Picture by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

“The film is a very correct take a look at what occurs within the for-profit, privately-funded packages which are missing in integrity,” he mentioned. “This janky man operating this name middle, choosing up addicts off the road; a woman 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 like.”

Bates agrees. She has been engaged on the problem for years, and is hopeful the movie would possibly lastly carry the truth house to her fellow lawmakers, who’ve been sluggish to behave. She’s hoping to arrange a screening in Sacramento only for legislators.

“The person who wrote the story lived it,” she mentioned. “It’s hardly fiction.”


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