Delaware County will join seven other counties in participating in a virtual call center project for county departments of job and family services.

Delaware County will join seven other counties in participating in a virtual call center project for county departments of job and family services.

The project, known as the "Collabor8 Pilot Project," will include Delaware, Hancock, Knox, Marion, Morrow, Sandusky and Wood counties.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is assisting in the project's development, implementation and operations. Delaware County commissioners approved the county's participation at their June 20 meeting.

The phone service would offer the same services currently offered by the Delaware County Department of Job and Family Services, said director Mona Reilly, saying the change is a way to be more efficient and meet the increasing demand in service.

"We are seeing that we need to do business a little differently than we do today," Reilly told commissioners. A presence is still needed in each county, though. "Our job in family services is not going away," she said.

The state is covering the cost of updating the counties' phone system, so there will be no cost to the counties, Reilly said.

The collaboration also is designed so other counties could join.

"We should see an improved efficiency within our department in providing services," Reilly said at the meeting.

Reilly said she anticipates the service will begin in November.

Previously, members of the public had to apply for assistance in their county of residence. This collaboration will change that for the counties involved, Reilly said. Residents will have a 1-800 number to call, a number that will be announced in November.

The number will be answered by a representative who could be located in any of the seven counties. An individual won't be able to choose which county to call.

The program areas of cash, food and medical assistance will be the only program areas that are part of the collaboration, Reilly said. While counties determine a resident's eligibility for assistance, the benefits are issued by the state rather than at the county level.

For verification purposes, if certain documents are required, applicants would deliver them to their county of residence.

The collaboration also would allow all the counties to view applicant information on a secure server.

While all the county departments are using digital imaging with the same vendor, they are exploring other vendors, Reilly said. If they do decide to change, then each county would be responsible for the cost involved.