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Dana

Dana joined the iCarol team in 2013 after 12 years of direct service and administrative duties at a blended 2-1-1/crisis intervention/suicide prevention center. As the Communications and Social Media Manager at iCarol, you'll find her presenting Webinars, Tweeting, Blogging, Facebooking, and producing other materials that aid helplines in their work.

Join us at the AIRS Conference

2015 AIRS Conference Dallas TexasCrystal and Neil are dusting off their spurs and cowboy hats – they’ll be in Dallas for the Annual I&R Training and Education Conference, held by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS), May 27 – 30th.

There are some special events we’d like to note, first that Crystal, who is a specialist in Taxonomy and I&R, will present a workshop titled
Taxonomy 102: How to make taxonomy customization decisions, and policies to consider.

Here’s the description of the session, which falls in the Resource Database Track:

So you understand the basic concepts of indexing records using the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy, but what comes next? Join us in discussing how to make Taxonomy customization decisions for your organization, and more importantly your resource database. Analyze a database and choose levels to index records. Learn the difference between horizontal and vertical indexing, and how to avoid these common indexing misadventures. Explore the different schools of thought on target terms, and work towards developing your own targeting policies. This session is intended for Resource Database staff with a basic understanding of indexing using the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy.

We should note that Crystal’s session is not iCarol-focused, it is educational and will be helpful to Resource Database staff regardless of the software solution used by their helpline. You can join her session on Saturday, May 30th from 10:45am to 12:15pm in the Dallas Ballroom B, 1st Floor, Conference Center.

There will also be an iCarol User Group session on Wednesday May 27th from 2:00-3:45 in Majestic 5, 37th Floor, Center Tower. The User Group session is aimed at leaders and staff at organizations who use iCarol so they can learn about our latest updates and ask questions. If your helpline would like to learn more about iCarol, whether you’re a current subscriber or not, you’re certainly welcome to attend.

Of course while in Dallas we’ll also be welcoming visitors to our booth (201) in the exhibitor’s hall. We’re looking forward to talking with everyone there in hopes of telling others about the iCarol solution, and welcoming more I&R centers into the iCarol family. If you plan to be at the conference and would like to chat with us, please !

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New Caller Profile Tools

You may have noticed some new tabs and tools recently added to your Repeat Caller Profiles. Here’s a look at what they can do.

Referrals

The Referrals tab shows the most recent referrals from your resource database that were attached to Call Report forms filled out for this caller. They’re listed with the most recent referrals at the top, and older referrals further down the list. Clicking on the Date will take you directly to the finished Call Report where this referral was attached. Clicking on the name of the referral will take you directly to that resource record.

referrals resources caller client tracking

This is a quick way to see what referrals have recently been suggested to your caller, so you can ask them if those referrals have been helpful, or prompt discussions about progress in their situation or treatment plans.

Follow-ups

The Follow-ups tab shows approximately 50 of the most recent Follow-up Activities scheduled on Call Reports filled out for the caller. The view here shows the Date on which the Follow-up is due, Status, and Subject line for a quick summary. Like the Referrals tab, each Date is a clickable link that will take you directly to the Call Report form where this Follow-up Activity was assigned.

follow-up with client

This can be useful in a number of ways, because even repeat callers can benefit from follow-up calls. Some experts have suggested that receiving a call directly from the helpline during times of high stress or crisis can help repetitive users of the service better respect boundaries or comply with call limits. This list provides a quick way to see how many activities are set up for this caller, the frequency at which they’re being scheduled, and whether they’ve been completed or not.

Public Resource Directory Activity

Each caller profile has a field where an Email can be entered.

caller client email track account website

We can also enable the capability for visitors to your Public Resource Directory (PRD) to create accounts and save lists. (Contact our Support Team if you’d like to have this enabled for your PRD)

If this client were to create an account on your Public Resource Directory using the same email indicated in their profile, information about when their PRD account was created, when they last logged in to your PRD, and their saved Resource records is shared on the Website tab of the profile.

website public directory track account activity search saved resource referral

If you’d like to track this information for any PRD user, our Support Team can set up a process where each new PRD account created will automatically create a Caller Profile in your system. Just ask us to enable this capability for you.

We hope you’ll enjoy using these new features of the Caller Profile. If you encounter any questions, please reach out to the Support Team for help.

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May is Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month in the US, and May 4 – 10th is Mental Health Week in Canada. It’s a fitting time for individuals, organizations, businesses, and governments to learn more about mental health, and reflect on how we can all better respond to the issues.

There are great toolkits available from both Mental Health America and the Canadian Mental Health Association that can help your organization celebrate these events while also spreading awareness, education, and reducing the prejudices and stigma that surround the topics of mental health and mental illness.

MentalHealthMonth2015

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Celebrating Earth Day

At iCarol we want to create tools that assist helplines in saving time and money, but we also care about minimizing our impact on the environment. This Earth Day we’d like to highlight some of the ways that iCarol helps you go green and also increases your efficiency.

1. With Internal Chat your workers send typed messages to one another digitally; No more passing notes.

2. Email or Text your referrals to a client

3. Shred and recycle your paper follow-up schedule, just go to our follow-ups page to see who’s due for a call, when, and what staff member is making the call (or sending the text!)

4. When using a Call Report as an intake form that will be passed off to another agency, you can use the PDF feature to email the call report instead of printing it

5. Storing your volunteer and call data securely online reduces the need to print and store physical files, saving you paper and space

6. Specialized Exports create a Word or Excel file of just the resources you need and none of the ones you don’t

7. Online shift scheduling provides realtime updates so you don’t have to print or email new versions of your shift calendar with each change or picked up shift

8. Use the News feature to eliminate the need to print and post memos in the call center

9. Your Public Resource Directory allows the public to search, save, and map the resources they need so they can get what they want quickly and know where they are going

10. iCarol gives your organization more options for workers to complete tasks at home which means fewer vehicles on the road

11. You can note in a resource record the bus line or transit options for a resource making it easier for someone to consider public transit instead of driving

12. Automated Verification removes the need to mail or fax update requests

13. The electronic feedback loop in call reports eliminates the need for printed notes or other correspondence for feedback

How has iCarol helped you go green? Leave us a comment!

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Get Connected with your Volunteers and Staff

Internal Chat copyEarlier this year we added a feature to iCarol that had proven to be one of our most popular feature requests from our clients. You wanted the ability to exchange typed messages with other workers signed in to your iCarol system.

It was popular for a good reason: there are so many great ways this tool can be used. Here are just a few ways our clients are already putting this to use…

Resource searches – Your Resource Managers are great sources of information and have an answer for everything. If a Call Specialist needs help finding the right resource for a caller, but can’t quite remember its name or the way it’s categorized, they can send a quick, typed message to the Resource Manager for some assistance.

Guidance when working with clients – Whether it’s working through assessing risk or sending rescue, or you’re just having trouble connecting with a client and need some tips, a second pair of eyes or ears from a colleague can be super helpful. If your shift leader is across the room or in another location, no need to throw office supplies to get their attention. Send a quick message to say, “Hey, can you come listen to this call?”

Supervisor check-in – Helpline Directors have a tough task of needing to be available and on-call practically all the time. Internal Chat allows you to quickly check in with your staff even if you’re already home after a long day. From anywhere with an internet connection you can sign in to see that folks have arrived and signed on, and send a quick encouraging note as they start their shift.

Have fun! – Collect lunch orders, check and see who wants to hit up karaoke after shift, or send a goofy joke to brighten someone’s day.

These chats are also protected — the security you enjoy throughout the rest of iCarol extends to Internal Chat, and your Internal Chat conversations are expunged on demand, and also when you sign off. So you can feel confident discussing confidential information via these conversations if needed.

Bottom line: We wanted this new feature to be one more way that your volunteers and staff can feel connected to their colleagues, their supervisors, and by extension connected to the mission of your organization. We truly hope this feature has done this for your center.

Internal Chat is included as a part of any iCarol system, it just needs to be turned on by an Admin user and then permissions granted to workers to use the feature. For instructions on how to do this and more, check out our help videos or watch our webinar.

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Using iCarol’s Built-in Suicide Risk Assessment Tools

When your volunteers are working with a help-seeker either on the phone, in-person, or online, there may come a time where assessing that person’s risk for suicide becomes necessary. Several years ago the Lifeline developed suicide risk assessment standards based on industry research. We then took these standards into consideration and developed a tool for use in iCarol that guides your volunteers and staff through that assessment process. Like other forms in iCarol, this guide can be customized to your needs.

The assessment begins with three basic and direct questions that gauge whether the person is thinking of suicide today, if they’ve thought about suicide very recently, and whether they have ever attempted to kill themselves.

three questions

Instructions guide the worker to proceed if any of the questions receive a ‘Yes’ answer. A fourth question asking about suicide in progress can help determine imminent risk, and our ‘Help tip’ reveals important questions to help quickly clarify this risk and begin rescue if that is part of your helpline’s policies.

Suicide In Progress Help

Four areas influencing risk are explored: Desire, Capability, Intent, and Buffers and Connectedness. Each section contains a number of topics, each with a ‘Help tip’ providing suggestions on the types of questions or statements that could be worked into the conversation. This can help your staff build rapport with the client and allows the interaction to continue naturally, rather than feeling like a questionnaire.

Exploring risk

As they talk with the client, they can select any of three options for each area which best captures where the client is for that particular topic. As these options are selected, our tool weights these answers and provides a measurement that helps gauge the overall level of risk.

Weighted risk gauge

Next, your worker can discuss and record the client’s reasons for living and reasons for dying. This can be a compelling tool for discussion and an important piece of the conversation. When someone is at risk for suicide, finding and focusing on reasons for living as compared to their reasons for dying can be a powerful exercise.

Reasons for living and dying

Finally, your worker can record the level of risk as determined through their discussion with the client or from the measurement tool. A series of instructions can help guide them towards resolution, referral, and other outcomes.

Again, because our forms are customizable to your own practices, this guide can be used exactly as delivered or you can make your own adjustments and edits if needed.

Providing a safe place for open, honest discussion about suicide, free of judgment, is the cornerstone of any crisis service. This powerful risk assessment tool will help your volunteers and staff feel supported, equipped, and confident when working with callers at risk for suicide, all while helping your center conform with industry standards.

Want to know more about our Suicide Risk Assessment tools, or want to enable them in your system? Please , or existing users can open a support case.

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We never talk anymore: The preference to text instead of talk

An interesting take on the preference for texting over talking can be found in this article by Bizzuka.

Some key points to take away:

  • Smartphone owners aged 18-24 send and receive 4,000 messages per month.

  • 43% of 18-24 year-olds say that texting is just as meaningful as an actual conversation with someone over the phone.

  • 42% of teens say the primary reason they have a cell phone is for texting. Safety was second at 35%.

These and other statistics about millennials are sourced here.

Millennials aren’t the only ones who text, though. According to Factbrowser, statistics reveal that US smartphone owners who use text (92%) send an average of 111 messages per week, and 49% of those who use social media daily would rather text than call someone.

More evidence that texting is not a fad but rather an often preferred mode of communication that’s here to stay.

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Celebrating Tim: Links between Homelessness and Mental Illness

We wanted to share this touching blog by Paul Gionfriddo of Mental Health America, telling the story of his family’s experience with mental illness and homelessness.

Celebrating Tim

By Paul Gionfriddo

There are half a million homeless people with serious mental illnesses in desperate need of help yet underserved or ignored by our health and social-service systems. That number can seem overwhelming, but for me, it’s all about one person: my son Tim.

Tomorrow is Tim’s 30th birthday, and I wish I could spend it with him. But I don’t know where he is, so this year I’ll have to settle for the memories of his childhood birthdays. Tim was diagnosed with schizophrenia over two decades ago, and has been homeless on the streets of San Francisco for the last 10. I am a former state legislator, a former mayor, a CEO of a national organization…and even I couldn’t prevent it. Because people with mental illness become homeless as a result not of bad choices but of bad public policy.

There are many differences between me and Tim…I’m in my 60s, he’s half my age. I’m 5’9”, he can appear towering at 6’ 5”. I’ve got graying hair, his hair is dark. I’m white, he’s black. But all of those difference don’t really matter…the only reason Tim is homeless and I’m not is because he has a mental illness. That’s it. Our mental health system has failed him and countless others, and it’s time to change that.

So I can’t turn back time. I can’t spend his 30th birthday with my son. I will pray as I do every day that he is safe and that one day we can get him the help he so desperately needs. Until then, I’m going to keep fighting just like Tim does every day. I’m going to fight to change our mental health care system, to work to get people the help they need when they need it, and to get this country talking and addressing mental illness before Stage 4. I will continue to fight for Tim and for the millions like him affected by mental and substance use conditions who have not had a voice for far too long.

You can read Paul’s blog here, and also get other information on mental health, mental illness, and other topics on Mental Health America’s website.

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Favorite Things: Eating Pie, Analyzing Data, and Irrational Numbers

Happy Pi Day this coming weekend!

What is Pi Day? Nominally, it’s a celebration of the mathematical concept of pi from high school geometry class (it involves circles), but my kids and I use it as an annual excuse to eat more pie.pi day

Actually, Saturday is technically Pi Day only in countries where the date format is like this: MM/DD. That’s because in those countries March 14 is written as 3/14 – get it? Pi = 3.14.

People in countries that use the date format DD/MM could wait until Pi Approximation Day (yes, that is a real thing), which is July 22. That’s written as 22/7; 22 divided by 7 is 3.14, hence, pi. But who wants to wait months to have an extra serving of pie? I say go for it now. Anyway, who among the pi cognoscenti would throw stones? You can bet I’ll consider myself Australian on that date, for snack purposes.

I was thinking this could also be also a good chance to extol the virtues of all the great pie charts in iCarol. Head over to the Statistics area, and you’ll see lots of ways you could use pie charts to display your data. My favorite part is when you make a pie chart, you can click on the slices to drill down into the data even further.dnc-d8v0puku

But really, that’s torturing the homonym a bit too far, with no satisfying gustatory payoff.

So instead I’ll end with a handy way to remember the first few digits of pi. I can’t say that I run into too much need to calculate the area of a circle with such precision, or, frankly, with any precision at all. But it has helped me annoy — er I mean impress — friends at parties. Where, of course, I parlay this knowledge into getting extra pie. It all comes full circle (pardon the pun).

Here’s the memory trick — the words in the following sentence each have the same number of letters as the first few digits of pi:

“How I wish I could calculate pi easily” (that is, “how” = 3 letters, “I” = 1, “wish” = 4, etc., so the sentence helps me remember the first digits of pi: 3.1415926).

I hope this earns you as many desserts as it has for me. And if you have the stomach for further party-scoring-knowledge, here’s another: Pi is considered, in mathematical terms, an irrational number. That means the digits go on forever.

Somehow it gives me great comfort to know that some numbers truly, technically, are irrational.

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Search on up to three categories simultaneously

We’ve got a new optional tool for searching for resources using custom categories. This tool lets you conduct category searches on up to three categories (sometimes also referred to as “keywords”) simultaneously.

Those using the taxonomy are familiar with this already; what’s new is the ability for everyone with custom categories to use this.

multiple category searching

So how can this be helpful to your searches?

You could use this new tool to search for resources tagged with both “rent help” and “utility help” (if you had those categories set up, for example). That could be helpful if your caller had transportation issues, and needed a single place to go for both. The search results would only include resources tagged with both of those custom categories.

As another example, you could also use the tool to search for “rent help” OR “utility help.” That could be helpful if the caller had general financial issues, and you wanted to find any resource that might be able to help. In that case, the search results would return resources tagged with at least one of the categories you indicated. You’d get more search results with this method than you would for the first example.

If you’d like this tool enabled in your system, there’s no added charge. Please submit a support case, and our team will take care of that for you.

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