Body Brokers: An In-depth Look at the Film Everyone is Talking About

Body Brokers: An In-Depth Look at the Film Everyone is Talking About

Body Brokers, directed by John Swab, is a new movie about patient brokering in the addiction treatment industry. Patient brokering is a fraudulent means of admitting clients into drug rehabilitation centers. Unfortunately, the addiction treatment industry is fairly unregulated by the federal government, providing opportunities for unethical business practices.

The MGMT team watched the movie and felt particularly moved by it. We found it to be an incredibly accurate portrayal of addiction, and the treatment industry as a whole.

What's the Movie About?

The movie tells the story of Utah, a drug addict living in Ohio, who is approached unknowingly by a patient broker, and admitted to a rehab center in Southern California. The protagonist’s story is based on the true-life experiences of the director, John Swab.

Part educational and part real-life drama, the setting begins in Ohio, Swab’s real-life stomping grounds. This is where Utah is introduced to the world of treatment and patient brokering by “marketer” Wood, portrayed by Michael K. Williams (widely known for playing the role of Omar in The Wire). Throughout the movie, we learn that Wood is also battling his own addiction.

The beginning of the film gives a quick introduction to the addiction treatment industry and how the Affordable Care Act has since affected it.

As the movie follows Utah’s very short journey to sobriety, we watch as he learns that not everyone admitted into a rehab facility is there for the right reasons. We don’t want to spoil too much of the film, but it is a raw and emotional thriller that could reflect scenes from many people’s real lives. The ending serves as a constant reminder that recovering from the disease of addiction is, for some, a daily battle.

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From the Director's Mouth

MGMT Digital had the pleasure of sitting down with Swab and producer, Jeremy Rosen, to discuss the film.

During our conversation, Swab told us that making this movie was important because he knew first-hand of the negative effect patient brokering has had on other people’s lives.

“Nearly all of the film is based on John’s real-life experience and, what wasn’t, was based on other people’s shared experiences with patient brokering in Southern California.”

Without naming who specifically, Swab and Rosen confirm that almost every part of the film is based on one person’s experience.

Addiction treatment, like many other industries, can be quite controversial. While some people feel that addiction treatment and twelve-step support groups are not necessary to get sober, Rosen feels differently.

“I think there are good people in the treatment industry. I just believe the system in which they operate, is broken. When the system is broken, the nice guys finish last. Twelve-step programs were the only place I found genuine help.”

Takeaways: What We Got Out of the Film

There are a few big takeaways that many people, including our team at MGMT Digital, have after watching the film. The first is the need for regulation and oversight at the federal level, from detox to sober living. In most states, you need more schooling and credentials to cut hair than is needed to open a rehab center or sober living home. Sober living itself needs to be a recognized part of the system so we can maintain accountability and transparency throughout the entire treatment process.

Another key takeaway is that addiction treatment sometimes isn’t the issue, but choosing the right program is. If more information is made available to those seeking treatment, and of what to look for in a rehab center (licensing, credentials, etc.), addicts have a better chance at choosing a legitimate facility.

Since the patient brokering boom, many states have taken action to stop the practice altogether. There are now protections that have been set in place, such as Legit Script. Legit Script requires treatment facilities to hold certain certifications before they are permitted to market themselves. Examples of states leading this practice are Florida and California.

In addition to licenses and verifications, treatment centers can utilize digital marketing to increase their exposure. MGMT Digital was started as a direct response to the patient brokering schemes that were, and unfortunately still are, taking place around the country. We believe there is nothing more ethical than a user going on a search engine and selecting a drug treatment facility at their own free will. Our clients are personally-vetted drug rehab centers that include an anti-kickback policy as a part of their program’s policies and procedures. They help every caller who reaches out to them because they understand the importance of someone reaching out for help.

It Takes a Village...

We believe in the work that we do and hope that it continues to dampen the activity of patient brokering. This film was a stark reminder of the damage addiction causes and the lives that have been lost along the way. Today, we continue to fight for those who are fighting the disease of addiction.

The epidemic of addiction has not slowed down. Even though the year 2020 was dominated by COVID-19 in the headlines, overdose death rates and relapse rates have continued to soar to a record high. There’s never been a more important time for a film like Body Brokers to remind us that recovery is possible– but it takes work. There are no shortcuts to recovery. It’s a daily reprieve, and it takes working with others to keep the disease at bay.

Thank you to John Swab and Jeremy Rosen for taking the time to answer our questions and for sharing your personal experiences with the world. The biggest takeaway Swab would like viewers to get from the film, and the story is the truth. It recounts what happened to him and countless others when they went looking for help for their addiction. It takes a village to enact change and we hope this film does just that.

Make sure to check out Body Brokers, available now on Amazon Prime Video on Demand for rent or purchase!

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Zach’s Story Part 2: How MGMT Digital Was Created

Zach’s Story Part 2: How MGMT Digital Was Created

This blog is a part of a series presented to you by the MGMT staff. Since we spend so much of our time working and wearing our business hats, we thought it’d be fun to open up a bit and get personal.

When I was leaving treatment, it felt like I was walking through a big open door of endless possibilities. I was simply loving life. The sky was really blue, the palm trees were really tall and I noticed every part of it. Addiction professionals describe this time as ‘riding the pink cloud’, and man, I was riding it.

I’d love to say that’s when my fairytale ending began and my life has been smooth sailing ever since, but I can’t. In hindsight, my life has infinitely grown bigger and bigger throughout every stage of my sobriety, but there were some dark, dark moments in there; and it’s important to talk about them.

Assessing the Situation

It was an interesting time learning that the drugs weren’t necessarily my problem, and that when I stopped doing them, all my problems would magically go away. My problem is and has always been me, and it wasn’t going to take just a couple of months of talking to a therapist to resolve twenty three years of my existence on earth. 

Fortunately (and others may disagree that this was fortunate) I was introduced to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m not going to get into too much detail about twelve step programs, but my path was choosing to do the work, which gave me my solution. On top of this solution members of AA love to talk about, I made friends – great ones. That’s how I met Danny, the tall, charming Irish redhead from Brooklyn, NY. I’m not sure if it was because we were both from New York, or spent our college years in South Florida,  or both active members of Alcoholic Anonymous, or all the above, but we became inseparable best friends.

Everything Happens for a Reason

Danny and I spent a lot of our time together, and even became roommates. We were sober, ambitious guys working in the addiction treatment industry – life was good. Just like me, Danny came out to California to get sober after living in South Florida for some time. Dreaming big, Danny and I always had long conversations about owning a business together. We would spew out ideas, discuss our passions, explain our strengths, and eventually, circle back to what made the most sense. 

Danny talked about his life in Florida. Back in the sunshine state, he worked at a digital marketing agency. Our conversations about owning a business quickly shifted to digital marketing and the treatment industry. So, where was the missing link? How could we take our experience in the treatment industry, Danny’s experience in digital marketing, and combine the two worlds we were passionate about into addiction treatment marketing? How could we also do this with no savings and no investment?

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The Beginning of MGMT

Fuck it, it didn’t really matter was the consensus. Like I said, we were young, sober and determined. If we wanted it bad enough, which we did, we could. We both agreed, we would make it happen.

So, in addition to the best friend and roommate friendship, Danny and I became business partners as well. For the next few months, the two of us stayed up late, creating what became MGMT Digital, a boutique digital marketing agency, all the while maintaining the jobs we had at the time. 

During this time, Danny mentioned that his coworker from the marketing agency he worked at in South Florida was now living in California too. He tried describing Steph, which is a difficult task because she’s pretty much indescribable, but he would use words like brilliant and genius. We invited Steph over, who was currently working at a large marketing agency, and told her everything about what was then the beginning of MGMT, and our behavioral health marketing dream. I’m not exactly sure how far we were in this development stage, but Steph was in. After landing her dream job at this large agency, she quickly realized that it wasn’t a dream after all. 

Passionate about helping others, the three of us collectively discussed how we would use the skills we had to do good and create change. At the time (which hasn’t changed much), the treatment industry had a dark side with a lot of gray area, and unethical practices taking place. Right there, we came up with our mission, which remains today, to be an ethical solution in the treatment industry.

Addiction IS a Disease

Fast forward to when we landed our first client, it was an incredible time for us. We were proud and excited. We were really doing this. 

A few days later, Danny lost his life to this disease that we’re constantly battling. I couldn’t really understand why, especially when it seemed everything was going so well. We shared the same excitement creating MGMT, and the same excitement when we got our first client. I realized that the why doesn’t matter, and that the disease doesn’t care about anything at all. I also realized that my life would be significantly different, and I wouldn’t have what I have today without my best friend Danny. 

The day Danny passed, my life and MGMT Digital took on a different meaning. While the MGMT mission remains the same, I made it my personal mission to continue building our dream.

Nicole’s Story: Marketing with a Mission

Nicole's Story: Marketing with a Mission

Hi there! I’m Nicole, the Junior SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Manager here at MGMT Digital. Since I’m new here, I wanted to share my story, and the motivation that brought me to MGMT.

A Little About Me...

I grew up in a small town called Truckee by Lake Tahoe, California. My childhood and teen years were mostly spent learning to ski, skiing, and teaching people how to ski. Not a bad life at all. There wasn’t a lot of TV watching in my house, but there was a whole lot of mountain biking and camping. My favorite saying is, “dirt don’t hurt”. But, how the hell did a little Jewish woman from a tiny town in the middle of nowhere become a marketing manager in LA? I’ll get to that in a bit.

I moved to Long Beach for college, trying to expose myself to the exact opposite of where I grew up, and was immediately immersed in new opportunities. I studied abroad twice, and ended up traveling to 11 countries during that time. While in Thailand, I had the opportunity to help build a school for stateless children in a very rural part of Chang Rai. This experience changed my life, and I realized my true passion was volunteering and helping others, and that I would not be completely fulfilled without this being a part of my career.

How I Got Into the World of Marketing

While I did major in marketing during my undergrad, universities do not prepare you for modern marketing. The world of marketing these days is no longer the traditional billboard style of marketing that it used to be. A huge chunk of marketing today is actually just trying to get Google to obey your wishes so your website is shown when people search your industry. And boy, do I love it. 

I got an internship at a large digital marketing firm during my third year of college, and managed to score a part-time job while I finished up school. I worked my TAIL off to graduate in 3 and a half years, while trying to keep up with the competitive environment of my new job. I was the youngest one there by far, one of few women, and the only one still in school, so I had to work twice as hard for them to take me seriously. While this job caused me a ridiculous amount of anxiety and stress, and completely consumed my life for a year and a half, I am very grateful for it. I learned a lot about SEO, marketing, interpersonal relationships, myself and my capabilities.

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How I Ended Up at MGMT / Why I Work With These Crazy (Awesome) People

Like so many others, I was laid off at the end of March, 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the states. At first, I was devastated. However, I soon realized that my job loss had to have happened for a reason and that this opened up a lot of new opportunities for me. I could finally find a job that combined my two passions: marketing and helping people.

So, when Steph, our Director of Digital Strategy & Operations, reached out to me over Linkedin, and asked “This is random but do you have any experience with substance abuse treatment and mental health marketing?”, I said no but SIGN ME UP. 

A few things I have learned from working at MGMT Digital so far:

  1. Using my skills for a good cause, to help people find the treatment they need, is SO fulfilling.
  2. Working with a team that cares so deeply about their work and about the world is very motivating.
  3. Work doesn’t always have to be stressful, it can be really fun!

My Future Plans

I love what I do. I love the creativity, the strategy, the fast-paced environment, and the people. I am definitely someone who wants to do anything and everything in life, including going to every country, and living in a few. Luckily, this career is very easy to work remote with, so I just might be able to!

Above all, though, I want to continue my passion for helping people. Eventually, I would love to start a nonprofit organization to help girls have access to education in underdeveloped countries. No matter what, my goal is to continue marketing with a mission.

Steph’s Story: Turning My Work Into Passion

Steph's Story: Turning My Work
Into My Passion

This blog is a part of a series presented to you by the MGMT staff. Since we spend so much of our time working and wearing our business hats, we thought it’d be fun to open up a bit and get personal.

My name is Steph, and I am the Director of Digital Strategy & Operations at MGMT Digital. 

For everyone thinking, “what the hell does that mean?,” let me share with you a little about my journey into digital marketing in the addiction treatment space and why I work for MGMT Digital.

Finding My Passion in Digital Marketing

My journey in digital marketing began when I was 5 months sober and hired as a sales representative for a digital marketing company that specialized in law and the medical field. I worked for that company for about a year, and during this time I took serious interest in learning how to do what I was selling for a living. So, I began teaching myself the in’s and out’s of SEO, PPC, social media, content and web design.

Through a series of events, I wound up getting a job opportunity at an addiction treatment digital marketing agency in South Florida. I am still beyond grateful for that job to this day because it is where I learned how to truly be a full-blown digital marketer. For almost 4 years, I worked and helped the agency grow, before moving out to California with my fiance to experience something new.

Landing My Dream Job

After living in California for a few months, I scored an interview at my dream company in the addiction treatment industry. Long story short, after almost a year of working at this company, I learned it was not actually my dream job. At first I was disappointed, but instead of letting the experience bring me down, I decided to learn from it. Being in recovery myself, I know the importance of owning my part in every situation and moving forward in life. 

In an effort to find a job that aligned with my professional goals and morals, I began my job search again. During this time my good friend Danny approached me and asked if I can help him and his friend Zach start a digital marketing agency for drug rehabs. Talk about great timing.

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Exactly Where I Was Meant to Be

After I trusted the process and acknowledged that everything does happen for a reason, I joined the founding MGMT Digital team.  MGMT Digital was started as a response to the unethical patient brokering, which is something I unfortunately witnessed first hand in the past.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term patient brokering, it’s when an addiction treatment center will pay someone or provide incentives to go to their rehab. Think of it as a bribe. The reason this is illegal is because it removes the power of choice from the person seeking help and many times this person gets stuck in a vicious cycle of attending treatment programs that arent best suited for them. 

Being that I’ve gone to treatment over 30 times in a span of six years before getting sober, I know the importance of finding the right kind of addiction treatment. Unfortunately my story isn’t unique but I am grateful I’ve made it out of addiction unscathed. 

If you’ve read Zach’s blog, you know that our founding member Danny lost his life to this disease when we first started the company. After Danny’s passing, Zach and I made a decision to continue to build this company to the best of our ability in order to really help people.

The Journey Continues...

Four years later, today when I am asked why do I do what I do for work the answer is pretty simple. I know at MGMT, we are truly helping people find quality addiction treatment in an ethical manner. 

Through search engine optimization (SEO), content publication, social media marketing, paid advertising, email campaigns and traditional marketing channels, we are able to connect those addicted to drugs & alcohol with ethical programs that we have vetted and believe in. 

To work for a company that truly cares about the wellbeing of other people just like me is something I am extremely proud of. To know that we work with programs who truly help people is one of the best feelings you can have going to work everyday.

My Boyfriend Is Also My Boss

My Boyfriend
is Also My Boss.

This blog is a part of a series presented to you by the MGMT staff. Since we spend so much of our time working and wearing our business hats, we thought it’d be fun to open up a bit and get personal.

Zach, CEO/Founder of MGMT Digital, is my boyfriend and boss. We live together, and now due to COVID-19, we’re working from home together. Barf, we’re one of those couples. I do have to admit I don’t mind being at home right now. I get to take breaks throughout the day to take our dogs outside and get some sun on my face. I’m healthy and everyone I know is currently healthy, so I’m not complaining.

Now that we’re home every day, Zach and I usually work in different parts of the house, mainly because we have different working styles. I like to listen to music while I work and he spends most of the day on the phone. Although I was a bit apprehensive working for Zach, it’s going great so far. I’d love to share with you all how we’ve managed to not completely get under each other’s skin.. yet.

How I Got Here

Late August 2019, I moved from New York City to Los Angeles so Zach and I could be in the same time zone. So brave of me, I know. All jokes aside, moving meant leaving behind my family, friends I consider to be family, a job I really liked, and amazing food. Dining out and trying new food is a big part of who I am so leaving New York wasn’t the easiest decision. Sure Los Angeles has great food but it requires getting in a car to get there and sitting in traffic (I’m a ride or die subway girl … you cannot beat the convenience!). Am I still in denial that I can’t hop on a train and eat Xi’an’s Famous Foods hand-ripped noodles every day? Yes, yes I am. I digress…  

Right before I moved to Los Angeles, I approached Zach about the idea of me working at MGMT. After discussing, we both agreed that it would probably be better for me to stay in the tech space and meet new people. I ended up doing this for a little, and it was great while it lasted but, ultimately the job wasn’t for me. Luckily, me leaving my job coincided with MGMT needing to bring on a new staff member to help manage content. After an extremely lengthy interview process and two rounds of salary negotiations, I landed the job! Kidding. I did sign an offer letter though and had an official introduction to the company, which brings me to my first point on how to make a romantic/professional relationship work.

Be Professional.

I think one of the biggest reasons I’m able to work for Zach is because I take the job seriously. I signed all the paperwork everyone else signed upon being hired. I’m genuinely interested in what MGMT does and am proud to be a part of the team. I’m not doing this job because it’s an easy way to make money.

If I have to make an appointment that falls during work hours, I run it by Zach first before booking it. If I’m running late to the office (before COVID-19 we did not carpool to the office), I will give him as much notice as possible. I also refer to him as Zach and not “babe” or any other pet name. Let’s be real, “babe” is not cute and doesn’t belong in the workplace. We’re all adults here and perfectly capable of referring to each other by our wonderful birth names.

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Be a Team Player.

One of the cool things about MGMT Digital is that it’s a small company, which means we all wear many hats. Although I was hired to do one thing, Zach encourages everyone to come up with ideas on how the company can improve, and I fully participate in that. I’m sure I could just get by doing the bare minimum because you know, I have an in with the boss, but that would probably make me feel terrible about myself. Self-esteem in the workplace is important. 

If I see something that can be better, I let everyone know, respectfully of course. I find that when everyone works together towards a common goal (for us it’s being the best digital marketing agency), going to work is fun. I think the most important part of this is that I care about the company the way Zach does, which strengthens our bond. Let’s hope he doesn’t get mad at me for getting emotional here. 

Have Respect.

Last but not least, I respect Zach and the MGMT Digital crew. It can be easy to get caught up during the workday and want to pick a fight with Zach because I am a woman and we’re always right, but I don’t do this. The respect I have for the job gives me the ability to think before I speak and not bring personal issues to the workplace. Alright, I may have done this once but I haven’t done it since said incident! I’m only human, eh. 

Overall, would I recommend to a friend to work with or for their significant other? Hell yeah! It’s fun. If you like them enough to date them, then you probably like them enough to collaborate with. 

Zach’s Story Part 1: What Was It Like Getting Sober?

Zach's Story Part 1:
What Was It Like Getting Sober?

This blog is a part of a series presented to you by the MGMT staff. Since we spend so much of our time working and wearing our business hats, we thought it’d be fun to open up a bit and get personal.

I feel it’s important to tell my story about getting sober because nothing good in my life would exist without sobriety. My family, my relationships, and my company – I wouldn’t have any of it if I wasn’t sober. Today, my life is drastically different than it was years ago. It’s big and full and I’m simply grateful for it. 

But like I said, my life wasn’t always like this, and I still relate to the pain, anxiety, and shame that I experienced on a daily basis prior to my sobriety. Although our stories may be different, I believe what we can relate to are the feelings we experience during active addiction and struggle with mental health. I relate to despair, hopelessness, and fear. I also relate to the recklessness and the damage caused by drug addiction.

In early 2016, during the scariest part of my life, I made the decision to get some help. Pausing life for the time being seemed like the appropriate response, as the madness and chaos swirled inside me, and outside of me. The messes that I created, fueled by my desire to just feel ok constantly piled up. Aside from already feeling isolated in the world, I continued to hurt anyone that loved and cared for me. 

Did I necessarily want to get sober? The short answer is no. Looking at sobriety from the outside in seemed like a bleak and nonsensical way anyone can choose to live. While I was addicted to the substances I was ingesting, I also was addicted to the way I lived. My lifestyle was always fast and the drugs that I abused along the way were simply a solution to the feelings I described before. Of course, I didn’t want to give up that lifestyle, and more importantly, I didn’t know how. 

In April 2016, I found myself in the foreign land of Malibu, California. In hindsight, not a bad place to be lost in. I checked myself into Alo House Recovery Center, a dual diagnosis treatment facility that was recommended by a friend who got sober there. Not knowing anything about the world of treatment and in the broken state I was in, I said yes to what was offered. Now I’m not exactly sure why I said yes on that day at that time, but I did. Some would say I finally hit ‘rock bottom’ and others may say I was ‘struck by ‘God’s grace’. Either one of those are fine. I don’t question it too much.

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At Alo House I was greeted by Chris, who appeared slightly older than me, wearing a t-shirt with tattoos covering his arms, introducing himself to me as my new therapist. While I was also wearing a t-shirt with tattoos on my arms, the difference between Chris and I was that he undeniably had his shit together. We sat and we talked for a while upon my arrival. I remember our first conversation, which I assume was business as usual for him. I’m not sure why it was comforting that Chris wasn’t some suit and tie kind of guy, but he was easy to talk to. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: I can’t imagine not having a glass of champagne on my wedding day.

Chris: Oh, you’re getting married?

Me: No, I’m not getting married, I’m just…

Chris: (Quickly cutting me off) Oh, you have a fiance?

Me: No, no I don’t.

Chris: Oh, you have a girlfriend?

Me: Well, no.

Chris: (Long pause, allowing me to look at my delusional thinking) Right. 

To this day that was one of the most impactful conversations I’ve had with anyone. 

What started off as a casual conversation, turned personal real quick. For the first time in my life I began cracking in the best way possible. I started opening up and connecting. I started building relationships, participating, and strangely enjoying life. I felt a lot. I vividly remember watching movies or listening to music, and whenever a tiny emotional nerve was struck, every hair on my body stood up simultaneously. I would step outside and remember what the world smelt like. Everything was coming back, quickly. 

As time went on, I began to build my life up. Although a lot of work had to be done since that first conversation with Chris, I started the journey of freeing myself from myself. I’ve experienced some incredible moments along the way. I’ve traveled the world, I built a company with some of the most passionate people I’ve ever met, I finally got that girlfriend that Chris was asking about (the same girl I lost prior to getting sober), I became close with my family, and made a group of friends that truly care about me. Was this more than I thought that I could possibly attain? Definitely. 

For anyone that’s thinking about making the hardest decision in their life- is it worth it? Absolutely. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 to see where my life is at now.