First Annual Sober Fest in Merced County celebrates sobriety

The first annual Sober Fest in Merced County was recently held to celebrate individuals recovering from drug and alcohol addictions on their road to sobriety. The event, hosted in collaboration between the Merced County Sheriff’s Office, Merced County Department of Probation and GEO Reentry Services, promoted local services dedicated to helping individuals overcome their addictions.

The event was featured in the Merced Sun-Star. Reporter Ana B. Ibarra spoke with Deputy Probation Officer George Gallegos, as well as Jeff Serrato, a supervising case manager at Merced County Day Reporting Center, run by GEO Reentry. Both reiterated the need to provide the right tools to helping community members, including jail inmates and participants at the DRC, fight back against substance abuse through smart programs.

“Instead of running away from the problem (of drugs and alcohol), we can do something about it,” Serrato told the Sun-Star. “We can come together and help break the cycle.”

At the Merced County DRC, adult probationers participate in evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as training and ongoing substance abuse testing. GEO Reentry also runs the county’s in-custody program, which targets inmates during their last six months in jail to prepare them for their eventual reentry into the community. Once out of jail, they’ll often report to the Merced County DRC. West Merced residents can report to a satellite day reporting program in Los Banos.

Officer Gallegos noted to the Sun-Star that these programs are important as 80 percent of inmates in Merced County, he said, are incarcerated for drug-related charges.

Serrato said he modeled Sober Fest after Sober Stock, a recovery event in Fresno, and said he expects the event to continue and grow next year.

Read more about GEO Reentry’s approach to reentry programming here.