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Introducing the iCarol Ideas Portal

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One thing that makes iCarol software so especially suited for not-for-profit helplines of all types is that it was created from the direct experience of helpline volunteers, and continuously grows by incorporating the great ideas from our users and from industry experts. In fact, a bunch of the features and enhancements you enjoy today started out as an idea from someone who uses iCarol at their helpline. While we work on new big features and changes with our planned roadmap, we also use a community development approach for custom projects which enhances iCarol for all subscribers. All of this amounts to creating a robust and comprehensive all-in-one software solution that is invaluable for helpline staff and volunteers in their daily work.

So, with so many users sharing their great ideas, how do we gather and track them and eventually decide which are developed and added to iCarol? Well, we’ve been working on a new system for organizing and tracking the ideas submitted to us, and now it’s ready to make its debut! It’s called the iCarol Ideas Portal — a new and better way to submit and follow enhancement ideas. This portal is available to all iCarol users with a security setting of Standard or higher and offers a number of features and benefits, including:

  • Directly submit your idea right within the security of your iCarol system
  • Browse ideas submitted by other iCarol users
  • Add comments or additional thoughts to existing ideas
  • Filter ideas based on their status, feature area of idea, how recently they were added, or see ideas that are trending
  • Receive updates when your idea or an idea you’re interested in changes status or when another user adds a comment
  • Vote on the ideas which are the most important to you

That last capability will surely add some fun and interactivity to the portal, while also giving us helpful feedback towards prioritization by seeing which ideas are the most popular and meaningful to our clients. Each user will get 10 votes to apply to the ideas they like, and you can apply up to 5 votes to a single idea you really love. Ideas can also be retracted and added back to your bank of votes. This may be useful in times where you are out of votes but see a new idea you like more than one you’ve previously voted for. When an idea is released to iCarol, or if we move an idea to not likely to implement, all votes for that idea are returned to you.

You’ll find the iCarol Ideas Portal by navigating to the Help section of your iCarol system. We’ve also included a number of Help Articles that outline how to use the portal to browse ideas, vote on enhancements, add comments to existing ideas, or add your own idea for consideration.

It’s our hope that the new iCarol Ideas Portal will improve communication and help you share your great ideas for iCarol with us. We’re excited to open this new communication channel with the aim of continuing to enhance iCarol and have it reflect the many fantastic ideas from which all our users, and their communities, can benefit.

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Using Online Forms to build a Continuity of Care service model

Features

One of iCarol’s most versatile features, Online Forms, enables visitors to your website to enter information that, when submitted, becomes a completed call form in your iCarol system. While there are several use cases for iCarol’s Online Forms, one major focus of these forms is in enabling a true continuity of care between the initial service providers (e.g. hospitals, clinics, physicians) and the helpline service following up with the patient following discharge.

Health advocates agree, one of the biggest issues they face relates to following up with patients after they have been discharged. Many hospital systems lack the time, resources, and specialized knowledge to provide a comprehensive continuity of care and as a result are looking to helplines, warmlines, and information and referral services to provide follow-up to their recently discharged patients.

With iCarol’s Online Forms, hospital staff can enter patient information through a website, either yours or theirs, and the submitted information comes into your iCarol system as a completed call form. Once submitted, other actions can occur, including follow-up scheduled automatically and an email sent to one or more of your helpline staff. Then, your staff can use iCarol to contact the patient through a phone call or even a text message. Best of all, the data related to the initial form submission and all subsequent contact with the patient is all kept and reportable through the iCarol Statistics, allowing you to keep track of how many patients you’re receiving, why patients require a follow up from your helpline, and what happened when your staff followed-up with the patients.

We are acquainted with privacy laws like HIPAA (US), PIPEDA (Canada) and the Data Protection Act (UK and Europe). We have safeguards and processes so that we do our part to maintain compliance with these laws, and are willing to sign needed agreements asserting our role in your compliance with them. For more information about iCarol’s security settings and standards, download the iCarol Security Summary.

As more hospitals and physicians look to enhance the continuity of care for their discharged patients, helplines, warmlines, and information and referral services are uniquely positioned to fill this service gap for health providers and using Online Forms may just be the missing link that can help you fill this need.

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Career Opportunity at Marin Suicide Prevention and Community Counseling

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Our friends at Marin Suicide Prevention & Community Counseling are seeking candidates for the position of Program Director. Below is information shared with us by them, and links to more details and instructions on applying for this position:

    Marin Suicide Prevention & Community Counseling is currently hiring for the position of Program Director, a Full-Time, Exempt (40 hours) position in San Rafael, California. SP&CC is a program of Buckelew Programs. The program consists of about 35 volunteers and takes approximately 15,000 calls annually.

    For the full job description, responsibilities, requirements, and more, plus information on how to apply, click here.

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iCarol seeks candidate for position of Business Operations Manager

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Would you like to work for a company that fosters a casual yet challenging work environment? Where you’re expected to work hard and yet enjoy flexibility in your schedule? Do you want to feel good about the work you’re doing and the clients your employer is serving? iCarol may be the place for you! We’re currently seeking a qualified individual to fill the new position of Business Operations Manager.

Our ideal candidate will have a degree in Accounting, Finance, Economics, Business or other related field, and have at least 5 years accounting experience. They need to have a strong working knowledge of tools like Quickbooks, Microsoft Office programs, and knowledge of Salesforce.com is highly desirable. They should also be very organized, a good communicator, and have the discipline and initiative needed to work remotely. If this is starting to sound like the opportunity for you, then please head over to this web page where you can read the full list of requirements, qualifications, and job responsibilities, and learn more about how to apply.

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iCarol Co-founder/CTO Neil McKechnie enters his first hackathon

Laptop in use

In case you don’t know him, our CTO Neil loves to code. And he also loves to address social challenges with technology. So when the University of San Francisco’s School of Management announced their one-day Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Conference and subsequent two-day Tech4Good Hackathon, he immediately signed up to make the short drive down to the event to see how he could help.

hackathon definition

About 70 bright individuals arrived for the hackathon’s opening ceremony on Saturday morning and, one-by-one, introduced themselves to the group by announcing their skills, why they were there, and an idea for what problem they would like to see solved in ways that would have social impact.

In the ensuing hour, participants informally coalesced into the teams that would start building their entry into the hackathon’s competition, to be judged the next day by an esteemed panel of five high-tech executives from the Bay Area’s startup scene. By introducing himself as a “CTO, architect and full-stack developer” Neil was in high demand to join numerous of the 10 teams who hoped to have a useful, coded prototype to show about 24 hours later.

hackathon selfie

As he has a family member who could benefit from it, Neil settled on a team to build a web-based tool that replicates a “real world” tool that helps young learners with phonics, letter identification and word formation in their journey toward reading fluency. Each of his other three team members brought very useful ideas and skills and were amazed at how quickly they organized into a highly functional and productive group.

After more than a few energy drinks, late night coding sessions, and last minute changes, the team submitted their entry for judging on Sunday afternoon. Although Neil’s team didn’t win, he helped other teams throughout the weekend and was impressed with all of the final entries.

Although it was his first hackathon, we’re pretty sure it won’t be his last!

hackathon group 2

hackathon room

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Self-service Tools: The new age of helpline service

Web page

My former employer’s Executive Director used to always say that as long as people still used phones, our crisis lines would answer them, but if people used ESP to communicate, well, we’d use that too. While most humans haven’t yet figured out a way to use ESP for communication, our society is using different forms of communication and even non-communication to get information, assistance, and support.

Text and chat communication has grown exponentially across most age ranges within the past five years. On top of that, a growing trend has also arisen with the internet: self-service tools. There is a big opportunity for helplines of all kinds to use self-service tools to promote their services and increase partnership agreements.

Because we here at iCarol are committed to providing helplines and others the tools they need to reach people across multiple platforms, we created Online Forms. With Online Forms, website visitors can submit information which comes into your iCarol system as a completed report form. Since the forms are essentially a public facing version of an iCarol report form, you can view, edit, and report on the form in the same way as all of your other report forms.

Several possible applications exist for using iCarol’s Online Forms. Let’s explore two use cases:

Assessment and Program Intake

Elmdale Crisis Center (a fictitious organization) operates numerous crisis lines through various contracts with mental health authorities, public and private health providers, and local municipalities. Elmdale’s management team is looking at ways to increase contract amounts by providing additional services without adding too much burden on their staff. After reviewing their current service offerings, they found a few contract required assessments that could be offered through an additional avenue, Online Forms.

They designed the following workflow:

online form workflow

With this workflow, Elmdale Crisis Center can extend the service offerings of the contract with the goal of increasing the number of people who request an assessment and intake into the service provider’s programs.

Consumer Satisfaction Survey

Elmdale Crisis Center’s management team wants to capture a consumer’s satisfaction and risk levels after using their crisis services so that they can report on outcome achievements and demonstrate their social return on investment, necessary for future funding requests. They decided to use iCarol’s Online Forms so that the consumer’s responses and information comes into their system automatically and their front line staff is notified if the person submitting the form would like additional follow-up.

Elmdale placed the consumer satisfaction survey on their website and created an iCarol resource record containing the online survey link, so that their consumers can receive the link directly via a texted or emailed referral from the iCarol system. They instructed their workers to provide the survey link to consumers at the end of their conversations.

The management team designed the following online survey:

Pre-screening question – if answered “no”, visitor cannot complete the survey.

    1. Have you contacted Elmdale’s crisis services? Yes/No

    Survey Questions

    1. When did you last contact Elmdale’s crisis line?
  • Today
  • Yesterday
  • This week
  • Last week
  • Earlier this month
  • Last month
  • Longer than two months ago

  • 2. How did you contact Elmdale?
  • Call
  • Text
  • Chat
  • Other, please specify

  • 3. On a scale of 1-10, how upset were you at the beginning of your conversation with an Elmdale crisis worker?
  • 1-10 Scale

  • 4. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the level of empathy and understanding the Elmdale crisis worker demonstrated during your conversation?
  • 1-10 Scale

  • 5. One a scale of 1-10, how upset were you at the end of your conversation with an Elmdale crisis worker?
  • 1-10 Scale

  • 6. Will you contact Elmdale’s crisis services again?
  • Yes, definitely
  • Yes, possibly
  • No, probably not
  • No, definitely not

  • 7. Would you recommend Elmdale’s crisis services to a friend or family?
  • Yes, definitely
  • Yes, possibly
  • No, probably not
  • No, definitely not

  • 8. Would you like an Elmdale crisis worker to contact you regarding this survey?
  • No
  • Yes +
  • + Contact Information
    First Name ________________
    Phone Number __ (____) ___________
    Best time of day to call _______________

The versatility of iCarol’s Online Forms opens up entirely new methods for those in need to contact you. Using Online Forms provides additional opportunities to increase and improve service offerings, which can translate into more funding to support your helpline.

Do you have other ideas about how Online Forms can be used? Leave a comment below. Want to discuss some of these ideas with an iCarol staff member? Contact us.

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Webinar: National Council on Problem Gambling Presents Information on Sports Gambling

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On February 28th at 1pm EST, Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, will present a webinar on the topic of sports gambling.

Here are the webinar details as provided by NCPG:

    About the webinar: One of the biggest current issues in gaming is the legalization of sports gambling. Join Keith to learn more about the political, program and policy implications for the problem gambling field. Our monthly webinars have received great feedback and we are excited to continue this series.

    Cost: While the webinars remain FREE for members, they are now open to non-members for the price of $59 per webinar. Become a member

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Marriage Equality Linked to Decrease in Youth Suicide Attempts

lgbt pride month gay lesbian bisexual transgender

Proponents of same-sex marriage advocated for legalization not just because they saw it as a basic human and legal right for all couples to marry, but many also argued that equality under the law could lift up young people feeling lost and hopeless.

Data is emerging that suggests this theory is valid.

Each year since 1991, a sample of high school students in the US participate in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, an annual Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey. The anonymous survey, roughly 90 questions long, asks about everything from cyber bullying to sexual assault to carrying weapons to dating violence, and beyond. There is also a section of the survey that asks about students’ feelings of hopelessness, whether they have attempted suicide, and if so, how many times.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for those aged 15-24, but gay, lesbian, and bisexual students surveyed are far more likely to have made a suicide attempt than their straight peers, 29% to about 6%, respectively. The survey does not ask about gender identity. Researchers analyzed data collected between 1999 and 2015, and focused on studying differences in survey results between states that legalized same-sex marriage during that time, and those that did not.

The study found that in the 32 states passing marriage equality measures between 2004 and 2015, youth suicide attempts decreased overall, even among students who identified as heterosexual. But among students who reported being gay, lesbian, or bisexual, suicide attempt rates dropped by 14%. There was no change the rate of suicide attempt in states that did not have marriage equality as of January 2015.

Researchers noted that as with all studies, a simple correlation does not mean causation. However the link between the decrease in attempts among LGB students in just these states is worth contemplation. It suggests, as supporters have been saying for years, that societal stigma towards the LGBT community is harmful to sexual minority youth, and can increase feelings of isolation and hopelessness. Even though most high schoolers are not thinking about marriage, achieving the legal right brings a sense of legitimacy and equality, and leads to a normalization of same-sex relationships and counters the sense that they are wrong or immoral.

For more on this study and the results:

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Celebrating 2-1-1 Day

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Each year, February 11th is celebrated as 2-1-1 day throughout North America.

2-1-1 is an easy-to-remember three digit number, but unlike 4-1-1 for directory assistance or 9-1-1 for life-threatening emergencies, the focus of 2-1-1 is to provide people with comprehensive information and referral to various human services in their communities.

Rather than spend hours of frustration going it alone calling around to various agencies or surfing the web, help-seekers can make 2-1-1 their first call for assistance and speak to a trained specialist that can spend time evaluating their needs, educating them about resources, and then connect them with the appropriate services. These 2-1-1 agencies widen their reach by making their services available via chat, texting, and integrating their well-curated database of resources into their website. They also build partnerships with other providers by sharing their resource information and making it available to collaborators in a multitude of ways. Of course, iCarol is delighted to help a large percentages of 2-1-1s across Canada and the United States tap into these tools and innovation to help their communities.

iCarol is proud to be working with so many 211 providers whose organizations provide a vital service to their communities by connecting millions of people to essential services each year. If you work at a 2-1-1 and celebrated this day at your helpline, whether it’s just a small occasion or large outreach event, we want to hear from you! Send your stories and photos to so we can feature them on our blog and share your experiences with our readers and recognize your helpline.

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Where to Find Help when Using iCarol

Question mark

iCarol is a large and complex piece of software, and every client uses it a little differently. Some clients use some features, and other clients use other features. Client needs also change over time, necessitating the discontinuation, addition or adjustment of processes and policies. We understand that there is turnover in our client agencies, so training new staff or volunteers is a continuous need.

We are here to help! We have a number of self-serve options for training and notification of new features and enhancements. We encourage all of our clients to explore the information available through these options to assist you with building and maintaining your knowledge of how to use iCarol to meet your needs.

iCarol Help Page – Online Video Tutorials and other training and informational material

To access the Help page, simply click Help in the left hand menu when you are logged into iCarol.

Training page

The Help Page is organized into sections representing the major features of iCarol – Volunteers and Staff, Shift Calendar, Call Reports, Messaging, Resources, and Statistics and Reporting. Each section has a number of videos or other documents (for example, PowerPoint presentations) explaining how to use the different features in iCarol. Feel free to use any of these materials in your own training programs at your agency.

iCarol Help Page – Help Articles

To access iCarol Help Articles, click Help form the left hand menu when you are logged into iCarol, then, at the top of the page, click “Help articles – browse solutions to common questions”.

Help articles page

You can search for help articles in a few different ways. You can enter a word or phrase in the text box next to the Search button, and then click the Search button. You can refine this search to a particular category by choosing a category from the drop-down menu below the search text box. Or, you can browse through the various categories and sub-categories listed on the screen by clicking on the name of a category. For example, the screenshot below shows the help articles available in the category Calls, sub-category Call Reports – Create & Submit Call Reports.

Help articles

iCarol staff are continually updating and expanding the Help article database as new features, enhancements and updates are released.

iCarol Dashboard – Announcements, tips and tricks

Users with Admin or Supervisor security status can access the iCarol Dashboard, which contains an Announcements, tips and tricks section. To access, simply click Home in the left hand menu when logged into iCarol.

Dashboard

This section contains posts about updates, new features, upcoming webinars, and more. Due to space limitations, you will likely only see the latest 3-4 posts displayed. To view earlier posts, scroll down to the bottom of this section and click the link labeled “See all news”.

iCarol Blogs

To access the iCarol blog page, access the iCarol website at www.icarol.com, then click Blog at the top of the page.

blog

The iCarol Blog contains a variety of articles that pertain to the iCarol software as well as other topics we feel would be of interest to helplines, such as Bell Let’s Talk Day, as shown above. Please note, you can subscribe to the iCarol Blog by filling out the small form you see in the lower right hand corner of the screenshot above. Doing so will deliver a weekly Blog Digest to you via email.

iCarol Quarterly Newsletter

To sign up for the iCarol newsletter, access the iCarol website at www.icarol.com, click Blog at the top of the screen, then click Newsletter along the right hand side of the screen.

newsletter sign up

The newsletter will be delivered to your email inbox. Articles include trends, tips, downloads and iCarol updates, including things like worldwide news and events, helpline best practices, iCarol product and feature updates, testimonials from iCarol users, Case studies of helplines, non-profit and charity contact centers, ask the expert and more.

Finally, if you are unable to find the answer to a question you have, you are welcome to submit a case to the iCarol Support Team using the Online Case Management system. This is accessed by clicking Help in the left hand menu when you are logged into iCarol, then, at the top of the screen, clicking “Cases – contact the iCarol Support Team”.

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