At iCarol we believe that our customers are also some of our best innovators. From the very start, helpline volunteers created iCarol and we’ve continued that tradition of users driving product development as the years go by. Many of the features you use in iCarol every day grew from a “light bulb moment” had by one of your peers. This community development approach drives our future product development. After all, no one knows your business or what type of tool or enhancement could improve your work like you do.
iCarol Usergroup Summit at the AIRS Conference
Our conference appearances throughout the year provide opportunities for iCarol usergroup sessions where iCarol users can discuss our software, provide feedback, and hear about our development plans, often referred to as our “Product Roadmap.” Prior to the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) conference in May we hold an iCarol Usergroup Summit where we offer trainings by AIRS Certified iCarol staff, as well as a traditional usergroup meeting.
This past spring, we asked for the AIRS Usergroup Summit attendees’ help on voting and prioritizing identified enhancements that should be first in line for development. Attendees received a firsthand look at how hard it is for us to decide where to focus our efforts. They took their task seriously, and graciously provided valuable feedback. You’ll be seeing the results of their efforts soon as these new developments start to be released in your iCarol system. As always, watch the iCarol blog and the Dashboard in your iCarol system for details.
Following the Summit one attendee described iCarol as, “Not just a vendor but a partner” in their organization’s mission. This is absolutely our goal as we work with all of our clients as we believe deeply in helping you to affect positive change in your communities. We’re happy to share that 100% of Summit attendees described themselves as Satisfied or Very Satisfied overall with the material presented at AIRS iCarol Usergroup Summit, and 100% of the group found the individual session content relevant to their everyday work. We think it’s a great event that you should attend next year, but you don’t have to take our word for it – 91% of attendees said they are likely to recommend attendance to others. We’ll be announcing future AIRS iCarol Usergroup Summit plans in 2018 so stay tuned!
Advisory Boards and Focus Groups
In an effort to keep client discussions going not just when we see you at conferences but throughout the year, we’ve recently kicked off a new and exciting venture — creating two separate iCarol Advisory boards, one to represent Crisis Centers/Helplines, and one to represent Information and Referral organizations. Each iCarol Advisory Board will ensure representation of industry voices in our development process through virtual meetings year round. Goals include providing iCarol with guidance on their industry’s evolving needs, providing feedback on existing and future software development, and validating that iCarol’s strategy and development plans meet the needs of the industry being served.
In addition to the iCarol Customer Advisory Boards, we are also hosting more focus groups than ever before. Focus groups are made up of individuals to discuss a particular challenge or development approach we are considering. Focus groups give the iCarol Product Development team the opportunity to discuss challenges our clients experience and potential solutions.
Want to get involved in an iCarol Advisory Board or Focus Groups? Participants are identified and invited through their participation on the iCarol Ideas Portal, from the cases they submit, feedback from surveys or ways in which their iCarol systems are configured.
Annual Customer Survey
It’s important to provide organization leaders and management staff across our client pool with the opportunity to share feedback covering all areas of iCarol, from our customer service to the use of the product itself, and to that end we just wrapped our annual Customer Survey a few weeks ago. We’re busy compiling and analyzing those results now so we can internally discuss how this feedback will drive us in the months ahead. We truly value the time you took to complete this survey and we will share results and action plans coming from that survey in the months ahead.
iCarol Ideas Portal
And finally, we just celebrated about 7 months of having the iCarol Ideas Portal available. This has proven to be an effective way of both receiving and prioritizing client ideas, and communicating about these ideas and their progress towards implementation. You may have caught our recent blog sharing some notable stats on the portal’s usage and just how much this method of client involvement has impacted your iCarol system already. If you haven’t, you can check that out here.
We hope, with these various methods through which we receive feedback and ideas, that you feel like a part of our iCarol Community where your voices are heard and opinions are acknowledged. Your role in our product development is an integral part of what we do and we look forward to continuing that tradition in both familiar and new and exciting ways.
Wednesday, October 19th is Spirit Day, bringing awareness to the topic of bullying targeted towards LGBTQ youth.
According to GLAAD, “Spirit Day is a means of speaking out against LGBTQ bullying and standing with LGBTQ youth, who disproportionately face bullying and harassment because of their identities. Pledging to “go purple” on Spirit Day is a way for everyone — forward-thinking companies, global leaders, respected celebrities, neighbors, parents, classmates, and friends — to visibly show solidarity with LGBTQ youth and to take part in the largest, most visible anti-bullying campaign in the world.”
There are several ways you can participate in Spirit Day:
- Take the pledge to show you support LGBTQ youth and stand against bullying
- Learn facts about bullying by downloading GLAAD’s available resources kits designed for the public, students, and teachers
- Spread the word, especially on social media using #SpiritDay
- Go Purple, by wearing purple clothing or accessories, and also using social media profile photo frames promoting Spirit Day
- If you have the passion and means to do so, donate to GLAAD to take a stand against discrimination and prejudice.
The pledge, resource kits, shareable facts, social media supplies, and more are all available on GLAAD’s website.
The following blog post discusses the topic of sexual violence and harassment.
Dozens of women have recently come forward with sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, a movie mogul and producer. While it’s unclear if any formal criminal charges will be filed as a result, Weinstein has so far lost his job at The Weinstein Company and was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The stories being shared in the wake of these allegations reignite an international conversation about sexual violence, particularly the prevalence of violence against women. Experiences of sexual violence or harassment are extremely difficult to talk about. Survivors often feel pressure to remain silent about what happened. Trauma, fear of not being believed, being shamed/blamed, fear of retaliation or further violence, and other potential consequences keep many from telling someone or reporting crimes. Many people don’t realize or perhaps don’t believe that this sort of harassment and abuse is widespread and unfortunately a fairly universal experience for women in particular.
Tonight, the hashtag #MeToo went viral, bringing attention and opening eyes to just how prevalent these experiences are. It began with a tweet by actor Alyssa Milano.
While it originated on Twitter, the posts and hashtag quickly spread to other social media platforms like Facebook.
So far, several thousand people are posting, sometimes simply sharing the hashtag as a way to acknowledge their experience without sharing any details. Others are sharing their stories. It’s too soon to know how much of an impact these stories might have on the broader conversation about sexual violence, including how we can eliminate it. But it’s clear that people are feeling safer discussing it online when surrounded by others telling their stories. Perhaps this solidarity, in such large numbers, can bring about positive change.
The iCarol Ideas Portal was released about 7 months ago, and already it is having a big impact, just as we hoped it would.
Since its release you have used the portal to:
- Add over 300 enhancement and feature ideas
- Cast 900 votes for your favorite ideas
- Submit about 150 comments to help our team better understand ideas
To date, nine ideas originating on the iCarol Ideas Portal have been released for use. We’ll talk about some of these in more detail on separate upcoming blogs, but here’s a brief summary of a few of those ideas and what they do:
- Receive email notifications and details when an Automated Verification Request has “bounced” and not made it to the recipient
- Receive email notifications that a Resource record has been flagged for review
- Initiate a new Automated Verification Request for a single record while viewing that record
There are currently 14 ideas planned and in progress, some that originated on the Ideas Portal and other ideas that were pre-existing but added to the portal so you could share you comments, feedback, and votes. Some of these planned ideas include:
- Create PDFs that include only certain fields of your Resource records
- Schedule statistics and specialized exports on a reoccurring basis
- Allow the template for sending referrals by SMS to draw fields from Site records
- Flexible date ranges in your statistical Summary Report
- Include Custom Fields in your Resource record PDFs
- Send referrals in the body of an email
- Integration with the 2-1-1 National Text Platform (NTP) including:
- Phone-to-Text referrals using 898211
- 2-way texting using 898211
- Pre-conversation surveys via SMS/Texting
- Updates to the iCarol Help area
- Applying your feedback to our Learning Guides
- Standard Resource Export using the AIRS XML 3.0 Schema
We want to thank you all again for embracing the iCarol Ideas Portal as you have, and contributing so many wonderful ideas to it. By participating on the portal and casting your vote on the ideas that would be most beneficial to you and your organization, you help our Product Management team prioritize what we work on next, and enhance the iCarol experience for everyone. Keep those ideas coming!
On Wednesday, we welcomed Dr. Michael Allen and Charissa Tvrdy of Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners (RMCP), and Caitlin Peterson of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL), to talk about how follow-up contacts and partnerships between crisis centers and hospital emergency departments (ED) are impacting suicide prevention efforts.
Dr. Allen and Charissa spoke of their experience working at RMCP where they partner with a large number of hospitals spread out over hundreds of miles. They expanded on their experience, data, and lessons learned from these collaborations where ED visitors are assessed and referred to their program for a series of follow-up calls following the hospital visit. Caitlin discussed the Lifeline’s Follow-up Matters initiative and microsite that provides crisis centers with data and other tools to help build a follow-up program, including information to help build collaborative efforts with local hospitals.
This engaging webinar and our presenter’s slides are now available for viewing.
From Oct 18 – Oct 20, I’ll be attending the National Crisis Centers Conference in Buffalo, NY along with iCarol’s Director of Business Development, Polly McDaniel, and our newest Solutions Expert, Tonya Broomer, who you may recognize from her previous role as an iCarol Support Team member!
Our history with this group is our longest association, going way back to iCarol’s earliest days, and many of the helplines and crisis centers who host this conference were some of iCarol’s earliest users. It’s a long standing relationship that we value and we’re proud to not only attend but are also long-term sponsors of this important gathering organized by pillars of the helpline industry, CONTACT USA (CUSA) and the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors (NASCOD). Both organizations are phenomenal in supporting crisis work and we recommend considering membership for your service. Find out more about CUSA membership here and NASCOD membership here.
This year’s conference theme is “Unity in Helping.” Time and again we see how coming together and working towards a common goal makes organizations and communities stronger. We recently joined NASCOD and CUSA member organizations and others to rally around a common theme of “being there for others” during National Suicide Prevention Week. This movement empowered millions of people to take action to prevent suicide. Having so many voices on this common theme helped broadcast that message further. We’re looking forward to this year’s conference sessions highlighting all the ways in which we’re stronger together, whether it’s teamwork within your helpline or collaborating with partners in other organizations.
Let’s meet up!
While we look forward to these conference workshops that keep us in-the-know about the issues faced in the industry, which in turn helps us better serve our clients, we also enjoy the chance to see current and potential iCarol users face-to-face so we can hear about their vital work and explore ways we might be able to help. This year we’ll offer some dedicated space before the conference begins, to be available to those who may wish to talk with us.
When: October 18, 9am-4pm
Where: Embassy Suites (same hotel as the conference), Encore Ballroom on the second floor
We’ll be prepared to address whatever topics you wish to discuss, such as:
- Training on how to use certain iCarol features
- Quick system tours to those unfamiliar with iCarol
- Feedback or comments
- Any other iCarol questions
There’s no need to schedule an appointment — just stop by at any time you’re free from other conference activities (click here to check-out the preliminary schedule). If you have any questions you’d like to ask prior to stopping by, feel free to !
If you can’t make it on the 18th but wish to meet with us, don’t worry. We’ll be attending sessions and other conference activities and can catch up with you at whatever time is most convenient. See you in Buffalo!
iCarol continues to grow and we have opened a new position to join the iCarol Support Team with a requested start date in the near future.
Responsibilities include the ongoing care and support of iCarol clients as they learn and use the system, encounter problems and recommend new features. The successful candidate will provide excellent and timely responses to daily inquiries, and also lead longer-term projects to continue improving our internal support systems.
Please click here for a full job description. If you or someone you know might be interested in applying, please send your resume to . The deadline to apply is October 31, 2017.
On Wednesday, October 4th at 1pm EST, iCarol will host a webinar on the topic of Crisis Center/Emergency Department (ED) partnerships, specifically those where crisis centers make follow-up calls to discharged patients who came to the ED presenting with suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Research shows that for about 1 in 5 deaths by suicide, the person had actually visited their local emergency department in the weeks before their death. While hospital EDs can keep a person safe in the short-term and provide referrals to long-term care, they aren’t often the best resource to handle the complex and ongoing mental health and emotional needs of someone who is struggling with thoughts of suicide. Most people who visit an ED for concerns related to suicide are discharged after a very short period of time, and the discharge plan often doesn’t involve ongoing direct contact to check and see how the person is doing following their visit, potentially leaving the patient feeling lost and unsupported.
This is where more and more helplines are stepping in. Crisis Centers across North America have engaged in partnerships with their local emergency department to help provide care for ED visitors or discharged patients in the form of follow-up calls. Because crisis center professionals have the best knowledge, training, and resources to provide ongoing care such as this, EDs will make connections between the ED visitor to the crisis center. From there, crisis centers talk to the patient and make a series of follow-up calls or texts to the visitor to keep them feeling supported and engaged with a safety plan. Crisis centers are also best-equipped to see that a person receives referrals to more long-term mental health care or other needed referrals that can help resolve issues compounding a person’s distress and desire to end their life.
During this hour-long webinar, we’ll invite presenters to discuss first-hand experience of these partnerships:
Charissa Tvrdy is a Lead Crisis Clinician and Hospital Follow-Up Coordinator at Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners. Ms. Tvrdy is responsible for oversight and project management of RMCP’s Hospital Follow-Up program. She works as a liaison between RMCP and participating Colorado emergency departments. Ms. Tvrdy assists call center staff in the training, implementation, quality assurance and daily operations of the program. Ms. Tvrdy received her Master of Science in Counseling Psychology from The University of Kansas. She has experience working in a call center serving people experiencing behavioral health crisis. Ms. Tvrdy also has clinical experience within a Community Mental Health Center.
Dr. Michael Allen built the model Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program at Bellevue Hospital. He was chair of the APA’s Task Force on Psych Emergency Services, president of the Am Assoc for Emerg Psychiatry, member the NIH Emergency Medicine Roundtable, a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline steering committee member, a STEP-BD, ED SAFE and PRISM investigator and an author of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s ED Decision Support Guide. He has served as a subject matter expert for the US DOJ Civil Rights Div, CMS, NIMH, the Joint Commission and SAMHSA. He was instrumental in forming the Colorado Suicide Prevention Commission and the Colorado National Collaborative. He is currently Professor of Psychiatry and Emergency Medicine at the Johnson Depression Center, University of Colorado Anschutz Campus and Medical Director of Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners.
Caitlin Peterson is the Coordinator of Best Practices in Care Transitions for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, working closely with crisis centers, professional organizations, community partners, and mental health providers to support and advocate for follow-up and partnership with crisis centers. Caitlin has worked in the mental health, crisis intervention, and suicide prevention field for over 10 years, 7 of those in various positions, and later manager, of a blended suicide prevention and information and referral hotline. She has a Master of Science degree in Marriage & Family Therapy from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
We hope you can attend — space is limited so please register ASAP if you’re interested in joining the live presentation. For those who can’t join us, we’ll have the recording available on our website at a later date. To learn more about this webinar and to register, click the button below.
From October 1-3, our Director of Business Development, Polly McDaniel, will head to the Texas AIRS (TAIRS) Professional Development and Education Training Conference in San Antonio, Texas. This year’s gathering is extra special as TAIRS celebrates 40 years of supporting Texas I&R agencies.
In addition to the learning opportunities offered at the TAIRS Conference, this is a great time for us to recognize in person the amazing work the Texas Information and Referral Network accomplished during and following the devastation and flooding in southeast Texas, caused by historic Hurricane Harvey. We are honored to be the software supporting the TIRN network as they assist their neighbors in need.
At the TAIRS conference we’ll be on hand to answer questions, meet and greet members of the Texas Area Information Centers, meet additional information and referral providers from across the state and take part in sessions and conversations that will help us better understand the needs of those providing I&R across Texas so we can continue to provide the best service possible.
You can find out more about the conference here and on their event page. Be sure to follow us on Twitter to follow along with our activities at the conference!
Increasingly our clients are seeking ways to share data both internally with other tools they use, as well as externally with one or more partners.
An example of connecting internal tools would be a client of ours connect their phone system with iCarol both to facilitate “screen pops” when a call is routed to a particular phone worker and iCarol appears prepopulated with information about that caller, as they answer the phone; as well as to combine the data collected by both systems to answer operational questions like “what is our average handling time for calls related to different help seeker needs?”.
And an example of sharing data externally would be giving access to your resource database so a third party can build a mobile app or a website targeted at a certain sub-population in your area, like immigrants or job seekers.
Enabling these data sharing relationships, whether internally or externally, is where API’s come to the rescue.
An Application Programming Interface (API) allows electronic systems to interact with each other without the need for the direct human intervention. That is, with an API no person needs to direct data traffic between two systems, say via a website or other screen – the systems just talk directly to each other behind the scenes. In this way, the data that resides in the main system can be searched, retrieved and even modified by other authorized computer systems connecting to it.
To do this, a software vendor writes an API and makes it available securely on the internet, and also publishes documentation about how other developers can use it. They can be one-way APIs, also known as “read only” because the software consuming the data from the API cannot modify it. Or they can be two-way APIs, where the consumer software can make modifications, like creating new records, or modifying or deleting existing ones.
At iCarol, we’ve had an API for a number of years now and are actively expanding its capabilities – it is used by quite a number of our clients to enable real-time data transfers both internally and externally. And we also consume quite a few API’s published by other software systems. Some of them enhance iCarol’s capabilities, like Google Maps or tools that let us send and receive SMS messages within iCarol. Others let us push client data to their partners, for example client or call data that needs to transfer into a partner’s electronic medical record systems.
APIs have been around for a long time in the software world, and will only grow in importance in the years to come. We continue to be excited about their possibilities and will certainly be expanding our use of them.