Oklahoma incarcerates more women than any other state in the nation, negatively impacting the lives of children and families across our state. In addition, the economic impact on our state is staggering. The cost to incarcerate an individual in the state of Oklahoma is approximately $19,000 per year. ReMerge offers comprehensive services for $15,000 per year while keeping mothers in the community with their children.
Participants are referred to the program by their attorney and approved by the District Attorney’s office. Assessments are completed by Oklahoma Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and accepted into the program based on need and risk for reoffending. The program is individualized, with each participant working the 4 phases at their own pace. Barriers are removed so women can be successful in completing all program requirements.
We are truly making a difference. Attend a graduation of our ladies, listen to their stories, hear the cheers of their children and “sisters” in the program, and know that they are changed and are continuing to evolve into productive citizens, good mothers, and reliable employees you are proud to know. Never has a “village” worked together better toward a common goal of reducing the rate of incarceration of our women.
ReMerge is a female diversion program intended to reduce the rate at which Oklahoma incarcerates women. The program is an intensive, 18 to 24 month program providing an opportunity for women with children to receive treatment in lieu of prison. Services include treatment for mental health, trauma, and substance abuse; parenting and family therapy; domestic violence education and counseling; health care, education, and basic needs; medical and dental assistance; job training and placement; and coordinated services for children and families. ReMerge is an intensive treatment program providing an array of services to remove the barriers women face when raising children alone: safe and sober housing, transportation, education and employment support, and assistance with all court related requirements and fees. ReMerge works closely with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and all participants are monitored by a probation and parole officer who provides supervision, monitoring, home visits, and drug testing. ReMerge participants are on site daily and work closely with staff, community partners, the District Attorney's office, the Public Defender's office, and others to reach their goals of self sufficiency. Upon successful complete of all program requirements, pending criminal charges are dismissed. This positions the women for improved job possibilities and housing options.
Yes, challenges are finding full-time employment that pay a living wage. Safe, affordable housing is another challenge. Many of our participants lack a renter’s history and many have prior convictions that limit their housing options.
ReMerge began as a collaborative effort when the United Way of Central Oklahoma convened a group of 25 nonprofits to collectively design a program to impact the rate of female incarceration in Oklahoma County. At the time, I was on staff at Sunbeam Family Services and worked on the initiative for ReMerge. Once it was decided that ReMerge would be a standalone 501(c)(3), I came on as Executive Director and have been with the program since it's conception in 2011.
ReMerge began as a result of collaborative efforts between 25 nonprofits who came together to address the rate at which we incarcerate women in Oklahoma County. We remain collaborative today and feel our ability to effectively collaborate and communicate with a number of community agencies has played a critical role in our success to date. Participants are not only educated about services available to them in the community, but also how to access them.
Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma County
Bryan Cardinale-Powell Photography
Central Oklahoma Workforce Investment Board
Dr. Sara Cole
Dress for Success
Focus on Home
Infant Crisis Services, Inc.
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma
Mental Health Association Oklahoma
The Messages Project
Metropolitan Library System
Myriad Botanical Gardens
Neighborhood Services Organization
Oklahoma Bar Association, Women in Law Committee
OIC of Oklahoma County
OKC Metro Alliance - Firstep for Women
Oklahoma City Educare
Oklahoma Dental Foundation
Oklahoma Department of Corrections
Oklahoma Department of Human Services
Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Oklahoma Health Department
Oxford Houses, Inc.
Positive Tomorrows School
Prairie Thunder Baking Company
The Recognition Company
Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma
Smart Start of Central Oklahoma
Suited for Success
Sunbeam Family Services
Dr. Thomas Wolf, MD
ReMerge is an amazing example of doing most everything right for a start-up nonprofit. Being independent only since 2014 (but incubated for 2 years prior to that through the United Way), ReMerge took advantage of this time to carefully evaluate best practices and consult with experts. ReMerge is fortunate to have a strong working board that is diversified in their skills and expertise. From the beginning, we carefully drafted bylaws, policies and procedures. We also put into place requirements and timelines for regular review of our bylaws, policies and procedures. On an annual basis, we ensure each board member has completed the Conflict of Interest form, Confidentiality Agreement and Board Member Commitment letter which carefully lays out expectations.
That said, we are new and run into issues that we realize even with the best of intentions and planning, we did not (and could not) foresee. Our Governance Committee is very active and works with all committees to ensure we are up to date and that our practices are aligned with our policies. We are willing learners – board and staff alike. We are open to change and are continually developing and employing outcome measurements to verify our decisions. ReMerge strives to be the best because only then can we truly serve our women and their children as well as our stakeholders.
Because ReMerge proceeded thoughtfully and deliberately in its set up, we can ensure incoming board members, as well as staff and volunteers, that our board governs and our staff manages. This gives me and other board members extra assurance when we accept our role to serve. More importantly, the “buy-in” of the community and our numerous collaborative partners help ensure the success of the programs at ReMerge. It is incredibly exciting to see so many different nonprofits, governmental agencies, city and county leaders, businesses, generous individuals, foundations and concerned citizens come together to support ReMerge, provide needed services and help ensure its success.
Our challenge, as a board, is to ensure growth is responsible and that our successes are long-term. Even though we started from a holistic perspective, certain aspects need more study and identification of issues still to be addressed. Thanks to the support and foresight of community partners and funders, we are working to expand our services to the children of the women in our program. Safe and sober housing for families is scarce in OKC and we are exploring short term and long term solutions. Continuing care is essential and needs to expand. How we do all these things, how we measure success, how we maintain excellent quality, and how we do all this in a fiscally responsible manner are heady issues for organizational leaders and the board.
ReMerge is engaged in working on solutions and exploring all opportunities to equip our ladies with the necessary tools to succeed. The board is heavily involved in using our spheres of influence to set up meetings with potential partners and ask the hard questions based on our individual experience, training and expertise. We have a strong relationship with Women in Recovery in Tulsa who has a 2 year head start on ReMerge. We’ve built a database to better measure our successes and identify our needs. We seek creative options for housing. We know there is NOT a one size fits all solution and welcome ideas. But we will always follow evidence based solutions.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
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