City Sentinel Reporter
A ReMerge graduation event at the Oklahoma History Center celebrated four Oklahoma women who successfully completed the yearlong diversion program earlier this month.
Congratulations go out to the newest four ReMerge graduates – Anshanique, Casey, Kristy, and Shari.
“I was using every day in my addiction,” said Anshanique, ReMerge Graduate and mother of 6. “When DHS took my children and I went to jail for 11 months, I hit my rock bottom. Because of ReMerge, I am now a better mother to my children and I have goals for myself.”
Since 2011, the comprehensive female rehabilitation program has helped 61 mothers or pregnant women facing incarceration through substance abuse treatment, education programs and legal assistance.
ReMerge has received full support from the district attorney’s office and has worked with District Attorney David Prater to dismiss the felony charges ReMerge participants once faced.
“This is a new beginning for you, your children and your entire family,” Prater said to the recent graduating class. “Do not waste this opportunity. Harness what you have learned, lean on your newly found support systems and teach your children about what got you here to avert them from a path to incarceration.”
ReMerge works closely with NorthCare and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to provide services and develop individualized treatment plans to address the needs of each participant and their families.
In addition, ReMerge participants are supervised by an on-site probation and parole officer with the Department of Corrections to provide supervision, monitoring and drug testing.
Tara Willitt program coordinator, female offender diversion programs with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections said the program is working to stop the cycle of incarceration for families and with an offender population expected to grow by 900 within the next year the need for this program continues to be critical.
“I have seen firsthand women who have completely turned their lives around after going through the ReMerge program,” Willitt said. “They gain a sense of self and learn what triggers their addiction so they can overcome it before using again. It is such a blessing to have a great program to combat female incarceration in the state.”
ReMerge Executive Director Terri Woodland said the community support of the organization is the driving force behind the success of the women and the program.
“These women work hard and earn everything,” Woodland said. “But without the support from donations, community partners and foundations we would not be able to accomplish the amazing work we do. It is a true blessing to give these women and their families a second chance.”
Woodland said there are 46 women currently involved in the program who are mothers to 112 children. The next graduation event is scheduled for spring 2016.
“My addiction led to criminal activity and very unhealthy and abusive relationships,’ said Shari, ReMerge Graduate and mother of 4. “I was addicted to meth for a total of 12 years. Through the treatment I received in ReMerge, I have learned that my addiction is a disease. Today I can say proudly that I am a loving mother, wife, and daughter. I am someone who deserves to be where I am today. I trust again and I care about my future and the future of my family.”
Kristy, a ReMerge graduate and mother of one stated, “When ReMerge took me into the program, I was broken in every way – emotionally, physically, and mentally. ReMerge helped me work through my trauma and now I have coping skills that I use on a daily basis. In program, I’ve worked toward a GED, obtained my driver’s license, and have identified red flags to keep me and my family safe. I’m so grateful for the ReMerge program. They were here for me in my time of need.”
Casey, another ReMerge graduate and mother of 3 said, “Before ReMerge, I had been sober for almost 8 years when I relapsed. I had lost all hope of getting my children back. I had come to the conclusion they were better off without me.
Having begun the ReMerge program this year on January 20 she recalls, “The hardest part of program was forgiving myself, but that is my past and I’m no longer that person. Today I have choices. No longer do I allow others to change my reality. I do not react on emotion. I respond based on values. None of this would have been possible without constant support from ReMerge.”
For more information, visit remergeok.org.