'Come as you are:' The Ridge in Fargo opens to help people with criminal convictions, addiction
The treatment and reentry center is meant to serve as a soft landing for those who have gone through the criminal justice system or need addiction services. To seek services from The Ridge, call 701-478-5808 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
FARGO — When people enter The Ridge Treatment and Reentry Center in Fargo, they may notice a sign that displays one of Nirvana’s most popular songs: “Come as you are.”
The sign welcomes people who have criminal convictions or struggle with addiction to the center regardless of their background, F5 Project CEO Adam Martin said.
“I specifically bought that for the treatment center because of the level of trauma, stigma and abuse people have gone through that makes them feel like outcasts,” he said of the sign. “They can feel safe as themselves and not have to worry about people running background checks, people showing up to hurt them or any kind of toxic environment.”
The center that opened July 18 at 1425 Fourth Ave. N. offers a number of services and resources. Started as a partnership between the F5 Project and the Midwest Mental Health Clinic in Moorhead, The Ridge acts as a soft landing and safe space for people who have gone through the criminal justice system or need addiction services, Martin said.
“It's been pretty cool to be a part of a bigger system because Adam has much more ability to scale things,” Midwest Mental Health owner Jacki Gervais said.
The F5 Project is a local organization focused on criminal justice reform in North Dakota and helping those who have been convicted of crimes refresh their lives. That includes connecting them with resources for housing, employment and addictions services.
Martin, who is running for Cass County Commission, is open about his criminal history. He has five felonies and multiple misdemeanors on his record and struggled with drugs and alcohol.
Using his experience, he wanted to create a safe place for people to get the resources they need, he said.
Gervais said she started her clinic in 2015 after noticing people who struggled with addiction had to wait months to get services. The goal was to start a small practice and see a few patients, but more people needed the services than she anticipated.
“When people are getting out of jail or prison or the hospital, they can't wait six to nine months for services,” she said, adding she wants to reach people when they’re in need in the moment.
She set a goal of seeing people within two weeks of them contacting her, but that has become challenging, she said. Gervais reached out to Martin to find more people to help with the endeavor, she said.
The Ridge, which is run using private funding and donations, takes a holistic approach in offering services, Martin said. It has licensed addiction and mental health counselors, as well as peer support specialists and care coordinators. Speakers also come in weekly, he said.
For those with a criminal record, the setting offers connection that isn't found at other treatment centers: a connection to others who have gone through the criminal justice system.
Tom Frei, a licensed addiction counselor who serves as The Ridge’s clinical director, said the combination is a good model. Martin may be connected to a topic more than Frei, and vice versa, Frei said.
“We come at it from different perspectives,” he said.
To have medical expertise and guidance from someone who has experienced imprisonment and addiction, like Martin, is rare for a treatment setting, the F5 Project founder said.
“It's a great hybrid approach for people who have no idea where they're going when they get out of treatment or prison,” Martin said.
The group has an array of services, including psychiatric evaluations, relapse prevention, sober housing, nutrition and wellness, yoga and employment support. It’s also in the process of opening a residential treatment house and getting certified for domestic violence classes, Martin and Gervais said.
Like F5, which signifies the number of felonies Martin has on his record and is the button on a keyboard that refreshes an internet page, The Ridge has a double meaning. Martin grew up in a part of Fargo known as the Ridge, which he said was considered the worst part of town when it came to drugs and alcohol.
Martin said he wants The Ridge to also be known as two entities — Midwest Mental Health and F5 — coming together to help people after incarceration or who suffer from addiction.
To seek services from The Ridge, call 701-478-5808 or email email@example.com.