By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The grand opening of the new 19,000 square foot ReMerge building, designed by Rees Associates, was held on Friday, June 19 in Oklahoma City. The ReMerge program is Oklahoma County’s only comprehensive alternative to incarceration for women.
The new ReMerge building is centered around a large kitchen, open dining space, group therapy rooms, a tranquil garden and meditation area.
The new building offers additional space for community partners and staff and increase access to other resources so the program can expand services to help 50 percent more mothers build healthier foundations for themselves and their families.
During the building dedication, a special presentation was given by Governor Kevin Stitt; State Senator George Young; Tricia Everest, founding ReMerge board member and Oklahoma Deputy Secretary of Public Safety; and Bob Ross, Chairman and CEO, Inasmuch Foundation.
“By expanding the facility and program, ReMerge can help more Oklahoma mothers reunite with their families and receive the assistance they need to break the cycle of incarceration and overcome trauma and addiction that keeps them from moving forward,” said Ross.
“Ultimately, it is exciting to be a supporter alongside moms as they create a better life for themselves and their children,” Ross added.
Since 2011, ReMerge has offered a variety of basic needs provisions including housing, transportation, medical, as well as behavioral health care, domestic violence intervention and counseling, education training and job placement, parenting and family services, legal services, life skills and more.
To date, 126 women have graduated and more than 317 children have been positively impacted by the program.
“I walked into the doors of ReMerge at the lowest point in my life,” said Ariel Beasley, ReMerge 2017 graduate and board member. “The program gifted me a second chance by healing my heart and giving me a purpose-filled life. This new building will allow the program to extend the opening of those doors to many more women – to many more second chances.”
With the new facility, ReMerge can serve 75 women at one time, a 50 percent increase from their previous capacity to serve 50. In addition, the program expansion will also increase the opportunity for partnerships to better serve women and families.
“As ReMerge approaches its tenth year, the positive impact they have made is undeniable,” said Gov. Stitt. “Not only has the program saved millions in taxpayer dollars by keeping these women out of prison, but the evidence-based treatment and services ReMerge provides reduces recidivism, reunites families and helps address our state’s high rate of female incarceration.”
According to the website, the twelve to twenty-four month program is challenging and offers life changing opportunities for the women and their children. Participants are on site daily, placed in sober living housing, and monitored by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. The program provides every opportunity for the women to change the trajectory of their future for themselves and their children.
With evidence-based treatment and comprehensive services, through the ReMerge program mothers can become more productive citizens capable of caring for themselves and their children, and lead a crime-free life, severing the intergenerational cycle of incarceration, addiction and poverty, the press release states.
“ReMerge is a space for the hard work of recovery, hope, and healing for moms in Oklahoma County,” said Jenna Morey, ReMerge executive director. “We are excited to use our new building to serve even more women through our diversion program and help them make choices today that transform their tomorrow.”
The new ReMerge building features three dedicated group rooms, inside and outdoor group/class space, a kitchen and dining room, laundry rooms, shower rooms, an education and employment training room, a gym, spaces for over 40 community partners, an early head start classroom for children under three, co-working suites for their teams and additional staff offices.
ReMerge participants and graduates contributed hundreds of ideas to help make the new building a great space, including avoiding the use of paint colors found in jail pods and a special bathroom designed for drug testing, the release stated.
“ReMerge was established to address the high incarceration rate of women in Oklahoma,” said Everest. “The program’s success and expansion is proof that criminal justice reform programs and policies work, and are the right way forward for Oklahoma to better address systemic change.
“I am excited to see Continuing Care, ReMerge’s support program for graduates, flourish in the new space alongside the traditional diversion program,” Everest added. “Graduates are amazing mentors to current participants and now they finally have a space large enough to co-exist.”
ReMerge is an alternative to incarceration for high-risk, high-need moms with non-violent charges in Oklahoma County that restores mothers and families through a comprehensive diversion program of treatment, recovery, and hope.
The program provides individualized, wraparound services to remove barriers and break the intergenerational cycles of incarcerations, addiction, and poverty.
For more information, visit remergeok.org.