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Lawrence County JFS upgrades network

It is a state-of-the-art computer system that will impact roughly a fourth of all Lawrence County households.

The Lawrence County Department of Jobs and Family Services recently acquired a new computer system that has fundamentally changed the way income maintenance clients are assisted. This includes those who receive or apply for food stamps, welfare and medical assistance, which accounts for just over 25 percent of all Lawrence County families.

The new system, a product of Northwoods Digital Imaging Systems, was installed in August and was in full operation in October.

Cases are now being automated. The old paper files are being copied to computer, eliminating the need for case workers to have to look for lost files or sort through filing cabinets to find what they need.

“This file can be lost,” caseworker Rhonda Primm pointed out, thumbing through the traditional paper file. “Forms can change; but now everything is done on computer. If we need to transfer a file, it’s done on computer.”

Forms are filled out via computer, too. If, for instance, a client comes in and requests food stamps, medical assistance and monetary benefits, information entered into the computer is automatically populated on the requested, necessary forms. Records, such as citizenship documentation, are now being kept on computer file as well.

Mail is now computerized. Incoming mail is now scanned and sent to the appropriate person; the sender is automatically sent a receipt acknowledging their correspondence. Outgoing mail is done via computer, too.

“This doesn’t cut down on the workload but it does cut out a lot of handling paperwork,” JFS Director Gene Myers said. “It does make work more efficient, makes work more expedient.”

The new system replaces the old fax machine; staffers can now send from and receive faxes at their desks via computer.

If, for instance, a caseworker is ill but a client needs attention, the information on that client is easily accessed by another caseworker.

Primm said clients are pleased with the new electronic signature pads, much like they have in department stores for use with credit or debit card transactions. She said they are also pleased that the process of getting help is done in less time with less hassle.

“If someone is sick, we can get into their caseloads,” Primm said. “Anything you need is done with the push of a button.”