The Dublin Counseling Center and Northwest Counseling Services plan to merge Jan. 1, but they don't expect anyone to notice much of a change.

The Dublin Counseling Center and Northwest Counseling Services plan to merge Jan. 1, but they don't expect anyone to notice much of a change.

The Dublin Counseling Center has operated in Dublin for about 35 years.

Northwest Counseling Services was founded in 1975 and provides mental health and social service programs to residents in Upper Arlington, Grandview, Worthington, Hilliard, Dublin and Northwest Columbus.

The merger is expected to strengthen offerings for patients and to more efficiently utilize funds.

Both groups support community members of all ages, focusing on families affected by mental illness, trauma, substance abuse and aging issues.

The merged organization will be known as Syntero, a slightly adjusted version of "syntiro," the Greek word for "support." However, both organizations will maintain their local offices and staffs.

Julie Erwin Rinaldi, Dublin Counseling Center executive director, said she had been meeting with other mental health agencies to discuss shared services.

"A lot of for-profit and nonprofit companies are doing that, especially with all the cutbacks we've been receiving," she said.

The opportunity to merge with Northwest Counseling Services came about when that organization's executive director left.

Interim directors have led Northwest Counseling Services, but Rinaldi will now serve as the leader for both groups.

"We're so similar in the number of years in place, similar programs (and) we're both strong financially," she said.

"It's a marriage between two equals. There are a lot of consolidations going on, but most are larger taking on small. This is equal.

"We'll be even better stewards of public dollars we get now."

The merger will allow the counseling centers to consolidate behind-the-scenes administrative services to save money and share programs.

"First off, we'll be better stewards of funding we get from (the Franklin County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health) ADAMH board from our respective communities," said Bob Adamek, Dublin Counseling Center board chairman.

"There will be the backoffice consolidation of management of both facilities, so we'll be better stewards of funding.

"The benefits back to the community will be a great diversity of programs allocated to both areas that we service," he said.

For example, the Dublin Counseling Center doesn't have older adult programming, but Northwest Counseling Services does. That programming will be expanded into Dublin, Adamek said.

"We have some youth and trauma programming they don't have at Northwest Counseling Services," he said.

"Where we have a void, they have a great program we can fill that void with. It's a win-win for both areas."

Despite back-room operation consolidation between the two counseling centers, Rinaldi said no layoffs are expected.

"We don't anticipate any layoffs. We're both separate and distinct," she said. "We're both operating lean administratively.

"There will be some changing and shifting within jobs at the administrative level, but we don't anticipate layoffs,"she said.

The changes expected to take place with the January merger shouldn't be noticeable to the communities or the people served, Rinaldi said.

"When we first got involved in the early discussions, our board felt strongly they should keep our location here on Fishinger Road, and our name," said Hollie Goldberg, interim executive director of Northwest Counseling and long-time director of older adults programming for the agency.

"Our home base always has been Upper Arlington. We're well-regarded in the community and didn't want to do anything to confuse the public."

Goldberg said the merger will give clients additional access to specialist treatment and services and willmaximize both agencies' abilities to contract for lower-priced products and outside services such as software programs.

"We'll be able to provide better client care and be more efficient," she said.

"I don't think (clients will) notice any changes," Rinaldi said. "It will be seamless."

"We're not making any sweeping changes," she said. "There will be more options for them to tap into, but there will only be really good changes. Nothing will be taken away."