- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—An Oklahoma County program offering female offenders an alternative to prison has received a $500,000 grant, allowing the agency to expand its services.

ReMerge provides assistance to women facing prison who are also pregnant or have young children. The program was founded in 2011 to address the high rate of incarceration of nonviolent offenders who are the primary caregivers of children.

The grant will allow ReMerge to expand its home-based counseling services, hire a full-time children’s health and education coordinator and implement two new programs to address substance abuse and building economic stability, said Terri Woodland, executive director of ReMerge.

“This grant will really propel our program to a whole new level,” she said.

So far, 57 women have graduated from the ReMerge program, Woodland said. The 12- to 24-month program addresses the needs of the women and their children by providing assistance with housing, transportation, mental health and substance abuse treatment, education and employment services.

ReMerge candidates must be recommended by the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office and the Oklahoma County Public Defender’s Office.

ReMerge is supported by public and private funds.

ReMerge is the second recipient of the Breakout Challenge grant, provided by the Ken and Gae Rees Family Advised Fund, which is administered by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. It will fund up to $500,000 over three years.

“We are impressed with the impact that ReMerge has had in such a short period of time,” said Ken Rees.

The first Breakout Challenge grant was awarded in 2013 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County to open a club in south Oklahoma City. The club opened a location at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in January 2014.

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