By Maggie Thurber | Special to Ohio Watchdog
COLUMBUS — The National Association of Counties has given Ohio’s Collabor8 program a 2012 Achievement Award and named it “Best of Category” in Human Services.
The annual award is a non-competitive awards program to recognize innovative county government programs. Best of Category awards are sometimes given to one or two innovative programs.
Collabor8 involves Delaware, Hancock, Knox, Marion, Morrow, Sandusky and Wood counties in which clients from the county departments of Job and Family Services use a common phone number to apply for cash, food and medical assistance. The calls are distributed on a round-robin basis among the workers in the seven counties.
The NACo application explains the process: “Agency staff members assigned to the call center perform specific transactions on a case versus seeing a single case all the way through to determination. Through a process termed “case banking” case managers no longer have assigned caseloads, but rather work on cases as needed in real time by accessing a digital case bank.
“This allows counties to utilize the full capacity of staff when and where it is needed. Essentially, the program combines the staff potential of multiple counties into one single entity that manages cases in real time.”
The application states that 99 percent of application calls are answered within 30 seconds. The average hold time for callers is five seconds. The seven counties have seen a 30 percent increase in productivity “which translates to $1,530,000 per year when expressed in the cost of labor,” according to the application.
In an interview when the program was first introduced, then-ODJFS Director Joel Potts said, “Between the counties and the state, they had over 400 different forms that were being utilized, and a lot of that information was repetitive. So through the efforts of those counties and the caseworkers, they’ve been able to winnow that down to a dozen forms. It’s less paper, it’s less cost to mail it out, it’s less cost to administer those programs and far more effective to quickly get those benefits.”
Current ODJFS Director Michael Colbert added, “Collabor8 reduces the number of trips people have to make to their county agencies, makes it easier for them to speak to a caseworker and apply for services, and reduces the administrative workload for the county agencies.
“It’s a win-win for all involved and proof that, with a little innovation and creativity, it’s possible to both improve customer service and save money.”
Nine other achievement awards were given:
- Fairfield County for its Fatherhood Leadership in the Community program;
- Hamilton County for its Higher Education Mentoring Initiative, Housing Resources Directory and Sustainable Hamilton County — Reinventing Our Communities Workshops 2010-2011 program;
- Montgomery County for its Community Pride Cleanup Supply Trailer, Dayton Regional Green 3 Initiative, Employment for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities, and ThinkTwice MC program;
- Summit County for its Full Circle, a decade of remembrance — 9/11 program.
Winners were honored July 15 at a ceremony during the NACo Annual Conference in Pittsburgh.