BONIFAY -- Nearly 75-percent of arrests in Holmes County are drug-related, according to Sheriff John Tate.
"Drug addiction is about the root of everything," Tate said. "Your thefts: people steal to support their habits, people write bad checks to support their habits, people steal identities and credit cards to support their habits."
Drug abuse has ravished families, undignified good employees and made safe places dangerous. And as local governments across the country seek legal assistance to limit the unhinged prescribing culture of opioid manufacturers and distributors, the Holmes County Sheriff's Office is looking to a greater power.
"The only way you're going to fix the drug problem is to fix the user," Tate said.
Holmes County Jail Peer Counseling Specialist John Sercy, 48, of Bonifay works closely with the sheriff to offer addicts a pathway to sober-living through a jail program called the Faith Pod.
"I can say without Jesus and without the Holy Spirit guiding us, you couldn't do this," It takes the love of Jesus to love someone out of addiction," Sercy said. "I believe in giving people second chances," he said. "I've had a bunch in my life."
A former victim of substance abuse for 25 years, Sercy is living out the eighth year of his recovery mentoring others.
"Faith Pod creates an atmosphere where you can focus on yourself," he said. "If you're serious and you want to go in there, you have to prove yourself."
Tate has proved to be a stalwart proponent of second chances. When individuals have had enough of serving time for repeated drug offenses or need help to prevent themselves from becoming a drug offender, Tate invites them to the Faith Pod, a launching pad to a potential life in recovery.
The process varies in length, from the time a person is arrested to being court ordered to a rehabilitation facility. In that time, the inmate would have been thoroughly vetted and monitored in the Faith Pod, interviewed by rehab facility staff and communicated with the court system about their addiction and willingness to change their lives at an approved rehab center.
"It helps that person get back on the road, it helps that person re-establish their families and their lives, but it also helps the fact that we don't have to house them, we don't have to feed them in the criminal justice system no more," Tate said, noting HCSO does not have a budget for the program. "Our goal is not to try to save the world, it's to save as many as we can."
In the past 18 months, the program has accepted 24 drug abusers, four of whom have since graduated from 10 to 12 month recovery programs. With only three individuals from that same group returning back to jail, the Faith Pod has an 88 percent success rate.
Families of addicts play a pertinent role in the recovery process, Sercy said.
"They're the ones that are the enabler, they're trapped in that addiction with that person," he said.
Sercy said signs of an enabling family show "when the addict has no job, they have nowhere to live, they have burnt every bridge, yet the family continues to bail them out of jail ... continue to pay their bills. They enable them to live that lifestyle."
For that reason, often times, he said, as is the case with Bonifay recovery program The Farm, local programs will not take local clients. Individuals in the Faith Pod have been enrolled in programs all along the southeast.
"All-in-all, it depends on the person," Tate said. "I can't force someone to do something they don't want to do. They got to be willing to do it on their own. Sometimes, it might take a little persuasion: you can go to prison or you can go to rehab."
To learn more about the Faith Pod, contact Sheriff John Tate at Holmes County Sheriff's Office at 850-547-3681.