Former NFL Player Turned Drug Rehab Consultant Under Investigation By DEA For Drug Trafficking

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Who Is Jeff Hatch? New Details On The Former NFL Player Turned Drug Rehab Consultant Under Investigation By DEA For Drug Trafficking
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On July 2nd, VP Mike Pence and former NFL offensive tackle Jeff Hatch (as well as other recovering addicts and Granite Recovery Centers staff) were supposed to meet up in Salem, New Hampshire for a roundtable discussion about potential solutions to the opioid crisis. The meeting was canceled abruptly. Then,  on July 19th, Hatch pleaded guilty in federal court to drug trafficking. Needless to say, the meeting was postponed. How did Hatch, a recovering drug addict, come to relapse? Or did he never really relapse and just facilitate drug transportation? What were his reasons? What drugs was he even importing? How does Pence feel about all this? Who is Jeff Hatch? Read on to find out!

1. Authorities found Hatch during a crackdown operation on the flow of opioids into New Hampshire.

According to court documents cited by Politico, Hatch was arrested in July of 2017 for moving 1,500 grams of fentanyl (totaling more than $100,000) from Lawrence, Massachusetts to Manchester, New Hampshire. Authorities found out by tracking down a phone call Hatch made to a dealer in Massachusetts. He’d been picking up the drugs and bringing them back to New Hampshire where they were repackaged and distributed to couriers.

2. While there are generally good reasons for using opioids, like effective pain management, there’s an equally good reason they’re classified under the top schedules of regulated substances.

“Schedule” or “class” implies a category under which certain drugs, substances and chemicals used to make drugs are classified depending upon the drug’s acceptable medical use and potential for abuse. Fentanyl, for example—the drug Hatch was arrested for trafficking in July of 2017—is a schedule two drug, which means it has a high potential for abuse that can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. The two major opioid addictions in the U.S. are prescription painkillers and heroin, the latter of which patients usually resort to when their prescriptions run out. Among the more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2017, the sharpest increase was among deaths related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (synthetic opioids), according to the Center for Disease Control.

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3. New Hampshire is among the top five states with the highest rate of opioid-involved deaths.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 424 documented drug overdose deaths involving opioids in New Hampshire in 2017. In response to the crisis, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services “has worked to develop and expedite contracts with a wide range of substance abuse providers across the state to ensure access to critical prevention, treatment and recovery services. Since January 2016, DHHS has brought forward, and the Governor and Executive Council have approved, some $24 million in contracts for substance misuse prevention, treatment and recovery services.” 

4,. Which brings us to Granite Recovery Centers, the drug recovery program for which Hatch has been serving as chief business development officer.

The center was founded by Eric Spofford, who grew up in a nice town in New Hampshire and by the age of 21, “was fifty pounds underweight, completely unhealthy, homeless, and absolutely hopeless.” He opened a young men’s sober living house in Derry, New Hampshire, which turned into two houses, then 12 more, and then an extended care treatment program with a full array of services. Hatch joined GRC just this year, and Spofford was completely unaware of Jeff’s actions. “It was, unfortunately, a well-kept secret,” he said in a Facebook post.

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5. Once caught, Hatch struck a deal with investigators to get a lighter sentence.

He said he would help them catch other drug dealers in exchange for a much lighter sentence. He faces up to four years in prison and a $250,000 fine. When the plea deal was made public, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu commented, “If these reports are true, his cooperation in this investigation better have been sufficient enough to justify such a lenient plea agreement.”

6. Hatch admitted that drug abuse cut his NFL career short.

Hatch said he was first introduced to opioids after undergoing spinal fusion surgery (see what I said in #2!?). In a mini blog post from 2012 entitled Playing Through the Pain: My Battle with Addiction on nflpa.com, he wrote, “It started with a back injury my rookie season. I was in a lot of pain. By taking a pain pill, it disappeared and I could make it through practice, meetings, and workouts with no problem. Slowly things got worse. Instead of one pain pill, I needed two. Before I knew it, I needed three,” he wrote. He also admitted that probably would have been an addict even if he hadn’t gotten injured, though. “My disease was in me long before I had a drink or took a drug,” he told Hartford Healthcare Behavioral Network in 2016. 

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RELATED: What Having An Opioid Addiction Feels Like

7. In 2017, he noted that he’d been sober for 11 years.

He was even talking with student-athletes about his opioid use. “I wanted you to think that I was ‘Mr. Perfect’ because on the inside I was (hurt),” Hatch said. He realized he was addicted in 2006 when he found himself watching the Super Bowl from a hospital bed. Despite the relapse, though, which can be caused by so many factors, it’s widely common for people recovering from addiction to relapse multiple times before achieving long-term sobriety. What recovering addicts need most is patience through their journey; an understanding that relapse is normal; and reassurance that they’re not alone.

Leah Scher is an ENFP finishing her degree at Brandeis University. She's an alumna of the Kenyon Review Young Writer's Workshop the Iowa Young Writers' Studio. She's passionate about Judaism, poetry, film, satire, astrology, spirituality, and sexual health.