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

The fast-cut trailer to the new movie “Body Brokers” is a dizzying and seductive collage of guns, cash, addiction and prostitutes, punctuated by a nicely dressed man holding a finger to his pursed lips as he says: “Shhhh.”

Jack Kilmer as Utah and Alice Englert as Opal in the thriller “Body Brokers.” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment) 

“Body Brokers” then drops the curtain on what it says is an open secret in the nation’s rehab industry, where drug addicts are reduced to commodities that can be recruited and recycled for big profits, and then kicked to the curb when their insurance runs out. It is a scenario also explored by the Southern California News Group’s 2017 project, “Rehab Riviera.”

The movie is not a documentary but it is labeled as being based on actual events.

However, this month, the rehab industry issued a strongly worded letter to the film’s producer and the media, demanding the film carry a different label: “fiction.”

Though they’ve only seen the trailer, the letter, signed by behavioral health and addiction rehab experts from throughout California, say the movie is sensational, irresponsible and likely to scare off addicts who need the services offered by legitimate treatment centers.

The tug-of-war over the independent, low-budget film comes as a handful of California lawmakers step up their war against rogue substance abuse clinics. Two Orange County legislators this year proposed or renewed bills that would force licensed treatment centers to carry insurance coverage and outlaw false advertising — regulations that would be new in the largely unregulated industry.

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In her legislative pitch to raise standards in the rehab industry by requiring operators to carry insurance coverage, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, D-Laguna Beach, decried that “fraudsters and scammers” were amok in California’s addiction industry.

Writer-director John Swab’s new film, “Body Brokers,” is a crime thriller set in the world of Southern California drug treatment centers. (Photo courtesy of John Swab) 

And that is the world of director John Swab’s “Body Brokers.”

Swab says he was a street junky for more than a decade, bouncing from detox to detox all over the nation. He says he was brokered — meaning he and his insurance were sold by a third party to a rehab operator — and that he then learned to broker other addicts as part of a multi-billion dollar insurance scam.

Yet, according to the letter from behavioral health experts, Swab’s depiction of that world is wildly exaggerated.

Officials overseeing public addiction treatment programs – which operate in a separate universe from private programs – blasted the filmmaker for “a highly inaccurate” depiction of substance use disorder treatment as driven by greed rather than care.”

Veronica Kelley, director of the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health and president of the County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California, which represents every county in the state, was among those who signed the letter. She said the film doesn’t spell out what she views as stark differences between higher-quality publicly-run programs and commercial, privately-run programs, where anything often goes.

“In …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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