We want all of our customers to feel comfortable navigating through iCarol and be confident in their use of the various tools and features we offer. This assures that they are getting value out of their system, and that they’re using it to make biggest impact possible when serving their communities. We have an entire area of the iCarol system dedicated to providing our customers with assistance they need to accomplish this.
When you click ‘Help’ in your left side menu in iCarol, you are brought to the iCarol Help Library, which is made up of 4 main areas:
Training Materials – short video tutorials, webinars, and PowerPoint training kits for various features areas of iCarol
Help Articles – written documentation about the various feature areas of iCarol and how to use them to best meet your organizations needs
iCarol Ideas Portal – area where iCarol users can go to submit and vote on ideas for possible future developments to help make iCarol even better
Support Cases – area where your organizations cases with the iCarol Support Team are stored and where live chat with the iCarol Support Team can be accessed by organizations subscribed to the enhanced support feature. This area of iCarol is only available to Admin and Supervisor level users, so not all users will see this section in the Help Library.
The 4 areas above are found as links at the top of the pages throughout the iCarol Help Library. Until the latest release in iCarol, the landing page of the Help Library has been the ‘Training Materials’ area, but now the landing page has been updated to the ‘Help Articles’ area. This means when users click ‘Help’ in their left side menu, they are now brought to the ‘Help Articles’ area first, as shown below. This area of the Help Library will soon include all information found in the ‘Training Materials’ area of the Help Library, streamlining their navigation and giving users easy and quick access to the search bar so they can find any relative help materials they may need.
This doesn’t change anything about the functionality of the Help Library or the information found within. But, if your organization has training materials written that direct users to the ‘Help’ area in their left side menu, you may want to review those training materials and update them accordingly based on these changes.
Each year, one of the largest gatherings of iCarol users takes place at the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) Training and Education conference. As a part of this conference, iCarol holds an all-day User Group Summit the Sunday before the conference officially kicks off. At this Summit, we hold the traditional User Group meeting that covers company plans, ongoing developments, and strategies for the year ahead. However, our User Group Summit is a more than just the user group meeting. We also offer free, in-depth and hands on iCarol training so our customers can get even more value from their iCarol systems, and elevate their I&R and technical skills at the same time.
We’re in the process of planning this year’s Summit, but we’d really like to know — What do you want to learn about?
We’ve put together a brief survey so you can share your thoughts with us, which we’ll use to ensure the topics addressed in the Summit are suited to our customers’ needs. Don’t miss your chance to share your ideas, the survey will only stay open until the end of the day on Thursday, February 14!
As I reflect back on 2018, there’s no question that this has been a significant year for iCarol. As many of you know, iCarol was acquired by Harris Computer Systems on March 12 of 2018. Harris is part of Constellation Software, Inc., Canada’s largest software company.
The Harris acquisition allowed our co-founders, Neil and Jackie McKechnie, to step away from iCarol knowing that it would be in good hands as part of a company which intended to retain it, invest in it and to help it grow further. While it was bittersweet to lose Neil and Jackie, we realized this move enabled them to pursue new goals in their lives, including spending more time with family and friends. We stay closely in touch with them and wish them the very best in their new endeavors.
This new chapter in iCarol’s history has brought a number of benefits, as the iCarol team has been able to rely on guidance from Harris’ accomplished compliance and legal teams, and to utilize ongoing assistance from corporate Finance and IT departments. This freed up team members to focus on other needs of the organization, which we could not do as easily before we had the resources of Harris behind us.
In addition, as part of Harris there is an ongoing opportunity to learn and grow from a team of thousands of software professionals in a variety of roles, allowing us to network with sister business units in sectors such as healthcare, emergency management, law enforcement, government, public schools, and more. There’s a lot to learn as we bring back ideas to improve iCarol, in how we serve and support our customers, and how we design our software to provide more value to its users.
We look forward to continued growth and investment in iCarol in 2019, as we focus on five primary initiatives throughout the year:
Improved Data Privacy and Security
More Powerful Resource Management
Greater Flexibility in Reporting
Collaborative Data Sharing
In the interests of keeping this blog brief, we’ll expand on improvements made to iCarol in 2018, and each of these initiatives in the early part of 2019, through blog articles and webinars. Stay tuned for more details on these!
While it’s been a momentous year for iCarol, change has also affected our customers, as we’ve seen trends in nonprofit funding and donations shift, and in some cases decline precipitously. A number of our customers provide some type of assistance during and after disasters, and there have been many heartbreaking examples this year. Throughout it all our customers have stood strong and assisted as many as they possibly could, which continues to inspire us here at iCarol. As a matter of fact, the Harris team has commented on the tremendous commitment displayed by the iCarol team, which comes directly from working with our customers, and witnessing their determination in the face of such difficult odds.
On the positive side, in 2018 we have seen some strides forward in government recognition of the importance of suicide prevention, which heartens us all. It gives us hope that 2019 will see improvements in the funding and support all our customers rely on to perform their mission.
In this holiday season we salute you, our customers, and the tremendous work that you do. We wish everyone a safe, secure and happy holiday season. We remain honored to serve you and look forward to another year of service and giving in 2019 and beyond.
This time of year I like to post a blog I wrote years ago about Frank Capra Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” and how this popular and enduring holiday program centers around the topic of one man’s suicide plan. While most people view the film casually and this aspect of the story may take a backseat to the other major themes, for those of us who have experience working in the suicide prevention or crisis industry, it’s hard not to view the film from that unique perspective. And, I promise you, I’ll get to that in just a moment.
But, I recently read a highly engaging article titled The Best Way to Save People From Suicide featured in the Huffington Post last month. In summary, it discusses the idea that making connections and keeping in close contact with someone who is suicidal is a simple yet effective method of preventing suicide. Remarkably, this applies to many different types of contact, from simple texts or emails, making a call, even sending a form letter.
Reading about the importance of connections got me thinking about George in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Here’s a guy who has connected with a lot of people over his life. He’s a beloved son and brother, and well-liked member of the community. He is devoted to other people and several times through the course of the film, we see him sacrifice his own dreams and ambitions to help family members and others. In my opinion and observation watching the film, that lifetime of deferring his own needs for others leads to a degree of resentment and perhaps even depression.
Suddenly, as things in Bedford Falls turn grim, with a run on the bank and his uncle misplacing a large deposit at the worst possible time, the walls begin closing in and George, who has always been able to come to the rescue, feels desperate, helpless and hopeless. Worst of all, it would seem his connections are failing him right when he needs them most. He can’t see his own value, and the positive presence he is in so many lives.
When Clarence shows George Bedford Falls (or Pottersville, as it’s called in the dismal alternate universe where George was never born) and the lives of the people there without him, only then does George see the meaning his life has and the impact he’s had on the town and people residing there. Having been reminded of his value, he’s pulled from the darkness.
While thankfully Clarence’s supernatural abilities did the trick, just imagine how powerful it may have been for a real person George knew to recognize his pain, then pull him aside and tell him how important he is to them, and ask him how he’s doing. We all have the power to make and keep connections with the people we know, and check in on those who may be hurting. We don’t even have to have all the answers to their problems, we just have to be present with them and provide empathy in that moment.
And now, without further adieu…
13 thoughts of crisis workers when watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”
It bothers you that the movie perpetuates the myth that suicide rates go up at Christmastime
You’re envious of the detailed and factual background Clarence has on George, and think of how helpful this would be when working with your clients
You know of a dozen people you’ve spoken to this month who are in way worse circumstances than George, but knowing how complex and unique suicide can be for each person you’d never judge George for feeling how he does
You can list all the warning signs that George is giving, and yell at the other characters for not picking up on them
Even better, you wish someone would talk to George about his behavior and ask him directly if he was thinking of suicide
You cheer on Mary when she calls a family member to talk about how George was behaving, and doesn’t keep his uncharacteristic behavior a secret. Mary – 1 Stigma and Shame – 0
George’s story reminds you of all the people you’ve spoken to that thought their suicide would be what’s best for their family
You note the high lethality of George’s plan for suicide
And think of how more bridges need suicide barriers for this very reason
It angers you when Clarence tells George he “shouldn’t say such things” when George discusses suicide, effectively shutting him down and judging him rather than listening to why he feels this way.
You’re relieved when George finds his reasons for living
You’re thankful for the happy ending, but you know that it’s rarely wrapped up so easily
You’re reminded of why you do the work you do
Have you had any of these thoughts while watching this classic film? Got any other thoughts to add? We’d love to hear from you, leave us a comment!
And while you may not have wings, we know the countless individuals touched by your caring voices consider you all guardian angels. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to saving lives, during the holidays and all year ’round.
If you want to witness one of the most challenging yet also most rewarding aspects of helpline work, look to the major holidays. Centers that operate 24/7/365 experience the challenge of staying open all the time and being there for help seekers even on major religious and civic holidays. It can be tough to staff these days, and hard for staff and volunteers to spend a special holiday away from friends and family, but ultimately knowing that you helped someone in their time of need makes the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile.
So what kinds of calls (or chats or texts!) do such services receive on these major holidays?
Hello from a familiar voice
At any given hotline it’s fairly common to have a population of people both in and outside their communities for whom the helpline is a part of this person’s support network. These folks rely on the helpline as a support system for a number of reasons; limited social and familial relationships, daily coping with mental illness or disabilities, loneliness, or someone simply had a very successful interaction that keeps them coming back for support. Regardless of the reason, helplines should take this caller loyalty as a compliment and endorsement. And you’ll likely hear from these same people on the holidays as well, either to check-in and talk like they normally would, or often with an added “Thank you for being there.”
More than a handful of times I can recall answering the phone on a major holiday and the person on the other end was baffled by the sound of another human voice. “Oh…hello? Are you a real person?” or “Oh wow, you guys are there today!” Often they were prepared to have to leave a message or were just testing the line. It was nice to hear someone pleasantly surprised that they could speak to another person on a day where so much was going on and so many other services are closed, and it usually made me feel like I was in the right place that day.
I need a meal/toy for my child/counselor/shelter/etc.
These calls can be a challenge because for many situations, the help seeker isn’t going to be able to get help that day. As mentioned above, many services are closed and it can be tough to give a person referrals but know that their situation may remain in limbo until the holiday has passed. Thankfully in my experience there were at least a handful of non-profits or religious institutions who were open and providing things like hot meals on many holidays, and even those who had last-minute toy giveaways for families with children who hadn’t signed up for such programs in advance. And, even when the referred service isn’t open, you’re able to at least provide empathy and hope which can make a world of difference.
Crises don’t take a day off
For many people, holidays are more stressful than they are delightful, and actually present a recipe for crisis. Tensions that were simmering below the surface can easily rise up when a person is under stress. And while for most people family gatherings are a happy occasion, for others these get-togethers can easily result in outbursts or even violence. Of course this can happen in a group setting or to someone who is alone. After all, a holiday is just another day, presenting all the same hardships as the day before. There is nothing special about a holiday that can create a foolproof barrier against a crisis or suicidal thoughts — making it all the more critical that someone be available to help talk things through or intervene in some way.
I want to help
Holidays that put a focus on gratitude and generosity will bring out the best in people. For many, the spirit of giving is coursing through them so much that they’re looking for a last minute opportunity to volunteer somewhere so they can give back to others in need. Unfortunately for these generous people, most organizations have long since filled their need for volunteers on the actual holiday, plus there are application processes and/or training that make it infeasible to accept these spur of the moment offers of volunteerism. Luckily these folks are usually willing to accept referrals to the many organizations in their area that need volunteers year ’round, not just on the holidays, and would hopefully follow through with their plan to help after going through the proper processes.
Holidays are a painful reminder
For many people the holiday itself can be a cause of negative feelings, and they need someone to vent to. Perhaps they have a particularly bad memory associated with the day or time of year, and pain surfaces as a result. This may be a memory from long ago or something that happened much more recently, but anniversaries tend to make us recall these past events and relive the emotions experienced, good or bad. Some people are grieving a lost loved one, and holidays remind them of the empty seat at the table. For others, seeing people enjoying get-togethers with family and friends shines a painful spotlight on their own loneliness or broken relationships. Being the person that was there for them when they needed it most can be very rewarding.
Perhaps the most heartwarming interaction you can have is with the person who calls just to say “Thanks.” Sometimes they’re people who have used your service in the past. Or, it may just be a person who finds out you’re there on a major holiday and recognizes that by sacrificing some of your time, you’re making a positive impact on others. A simple “Thank you” goes such a long way.
During the holidays we know many of you out there will be spending some time apart from your families as you work to serve your communities. On behalf of all of us here at iCarol, thank you for all you do and we wish you a happy holiday season and bright New Year!
Guest Blogger Adam Cook started AddictionHub.org after losing a friend to substance abuse and suicide. Mr. Cook’s mission is to provide people struggling with substance abuse with resources to help them recover. He founded Addiction Hub, which locates and catalogs addiction resources.
Guest blogger views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of CharityLogic and iCarol
Recovering from addiction is a long-term process. In fact, it’s a lifelong struggle. To help recovering addicts remain sober, treatment professionals often encourage them to spend time with friends and family. Loved ones can be an important source of emotional and moral support at a time when help is most needed. But there are times when even the most dedicated family member can be a distraction without realizing it. As fun and reassuring as get-togethers can be, addiction may assert itself at any time. One well-meaning but forgetful relative hanging around an open bar can easily lead to a relapse that undoes months of progress.
People with substance abuse problems can enjoy the fun and fellowship of family gatherings just as they always have, even in the early stages of sobriety. But it’s important to observe a few rules and to understand the challenges and stresses that are likely to arise, especially during the holidays.
Think it through
As we all know, family parties and social events tend to generate their own unique kinds of stress, so be certain that you’re doing everything you can to help your guest handle it from a sobriety standpoint. One good strategy is to rate the situation based on risk level. If you know it’s likely to be a high-risk scenario for a recovering addict, consider limiting the amount of alcohol that’ll be served. Or you can plan to shorten the evening a bit and reduce the likelihood that your guest might give in to temptation. If it’s feasible, consider throwing a non-alcoholic party.
If you’re throwing a holiday shindig, make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic options on your drink list. Include drinks like sparkling water and an array of soft drinks, and plenty of finger foods. Remember that people in the early stages of sobriety need to watch out for things that might trigger a relapse. Try to put yourself in their shoes and make it easy as possible for them to avoid exposure to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.
The buddy system
Do you know someone who doesn’t smoke, drink or do drugs? If so, invite them to your party so your newly recovered family member won’t feel so alone and uncomfortable. It’s a positive distraction, and provides a ready-made excuse to steer clear of the action around the bar and people who are just there to tie one on. Remember, peer support is essential for someone going through the early stages of sobriety.
If you have limited space or you’re expecting a lot of guests, remember that a recovering addict is very vulnerable to peer pressure and needs an easy means of escaping the crowd. Provide ready access to open areas such as a patio or lawn or a quieter space in the house; they’re great refuges when things get a little too claustrophobic.
Learn your lines
Take a few minutes to think through how you’ll respond if a boozy great uncle shoves a scotch and soda at a relative who’s newly sober. Knowing how you’ll respond can help smooth over a potentially awkward situation. It’s not necessary to concoct a world-class fable, just have something in mind that’ll help your guest steer clear of embarrassment.
Keep it kid-friendly
You can also help young people avoid exposure to alcohol and drugs by establishing secure, “adults-only” areas if you’re having a party. This way, you’ll avoid creating opportunities for any kids and teens who might be hanging around to experiment with alcohol and, possibly, develop substance abuse issues later in life.
There’s no reason that people who live with substance abuse problems can’t enjoy a good time when friends and family get together. Making sure they do just takes a little extra consideration and effort.
Our customers take part in a variety of collaborative relationships with fellow not-for-profit agencies, governmental institutions, private companies, and others. This often requires sharing of information that they input and store in iCarol, and commonly includes (but isn’t limited to!) resource/referral information, or client interaction data collected in a Contact Record (aka Call Report Form). We heartily support such collaborations because they are the key not only to an agency thriving, but these partnerships also foster a continuum of care model that help create healthier, more connected communities. So we are always looking for ways we can encourage these partnerships and make them possible and easier to engage in using iCarol.
There are a number of ways our customers can share Contact Record data. Protecting confidential information is paramount and one should always be sure they are following their organization’s policies, protocols, and any pertinent regulations when sharing this data. Some examples of ways that our customers share Contact Record information include exporting data tables from iCarol to hand them over to a partner, printing records for faxing or hard copy delivery and storage, or using our Contact Record Outbound API to transmit data to their partner’s web service. The latest way we have enabled Contact Record sharing is be creating a feature that allows authorized personnel to send an encrypted email with a password protected PDF file of the Contact Record, right within the iCarol system.
In what scenarios might you want to encrypt and email a Contact Record?
When sending a warm referral to another agency
When sending Contact Records to a funder who requires a copy of the contact
While referring a Mobile Crisis Intake to a crisis specialist on duty
For sending the details of a high risk interaction to the counselor or supervisor on duty so they can follow up
Here are a few other highlights and things to know about this feature:
You control who can use it
Access is granted in a user’s Advanced Security Settings, giving you granular control over who can and cannot email Contact Records.
How to access
The ability to send a Contact Record by email will appear whenever you create a PDF of a Contact Record, whether it is a single PDF or a batch of PDFs compiled within the Advanced Search on the main Calls page. First you must request that the PDF be made.
Once you click the “Make PDF” button, the options to print the PDF or send it in an encrypted email appear.
PDFs sent using this feature can be password protected so that the recipient must enter the correct password before viewing the PDF file, further securing sensitive information. The stronger and more complex the password, the better protection for your PDF to ensure only authorized recipients can view it.
Create a template
If the emailed Contact Records will regularly go to the same recipient(s), use the same subject line, body text, etc., you can create a template. This can save data entry time when preparing the email, and keep a consistent message if you are emailing records as a part of a specific contract or program at your organization. A single template can be created by taking the following steps:
From the left main menu of iCarol, click on ‘Admin Tools’
Click the ‘Calls’ tab
Click the link titled ‘Edit the template used for sending contact records by email’ and follow the instructions on the next page to create the template
Once the template is created, this information will be available automatically each time you create a PDF.
There are no additional costs to turn on and use this feature, it is included and available to all of our subscribers who use Contact Records. For more information, please see the Help Articles in the Help section of your iCarol system. If you have additional questions or need assistance, please open a case with the Support Team.
As the end of 2018 approaches, we want to take the opportunity to provide some housekeeping tasks for you to review. We know how busy you are every day of the year, and even if you already have processes in place for these tasks, getting them done might fall to the bottom of your to-do list sometimes. Now is a good time to review these housekeeping tasks to help you get the most out of your iCarol system, while you’re getting ready for another exciting year!
Review Draft Contact Forms
It’s a good idea to designate a user with appropriate permissions to review all Contact Forms in DRAFT and ensure they’re either submitted or deleted by the end of the year. This is important because any Contact Forms in draft mode aren’t included in Statistics or Data Exports reports, so you could be missing import reporting data if forms documenting completed calls are left in draft mode. And erroneous drafts can clutter up your draft list, making it harder for your staff to see the drafts that actually need to be reviewed and completed. To learn more about draft Contact Records, read this related help article.
Set Obsolete Contact Record Custom Fields To “Inactive” Status
The information you need to collect on your Contact Forms may periodically change. For example, perhaps a project your helpline participates in ends, and you no longer need to collect that piece of data. It helps keep your forms tidy, and reduces time spent by your volunteers, if these unnecessary fields are hidden from the form entirely. This cleanup can be done at any time, but the end of the year is a perfect time to review the relevancy of your form’s fields. To learn more, read this related help article.
Disable Inactive Custom Fields in Contact Forms from Appearing in Statistics Call Content Filters
If you’ve made changes to your Contact Forms, and set any custom fields to ‘inactive’ because they were no longer being used, now is a good time to review those inactive custom fields, and determine if the setting to ‘Use as a filter in Statistics’ should be disabled. If you no longer need to run reports on this information, it may help to have that filter removed from the list entirely. This way, your reporting staff will only see applicable filters when applying them to reports, saving them time as they browse through the list of filters. To learn more, read this related help article.
Disable Vols-Staff from Accessing iCarol
It’s likely you had users leave your organization throughout the past year for any number of reasons. Even if you have a process in place already for what to do when users leave your organization, now is a good time to review your Vols-Staff profiles to ensure you’ve disabled users from accessing iCarol, when appropriate. This not only keeps them from accessing data they are no longer authorized to have, but also ensures they won’t be called or emailed by your active volunteers for help covering a shift. To learn more, read this related help article.
Review Organization Contacts
During the year your designated Billing or Support Contacts may have left your organization, but you forgot to update your iCarol system accordingly with this information. To avoid unpaid invoices or delays in sending Support requests, it’s good to occasionally make sure the proper contacts are assigned to these roles. Read this help article to learn more about your organization’s designated contacts, and how and why to keep them up to date.
It’s best practice to periodically create a backup file of your Resources, in case you need to access them offline for any reason. These files can then be especially helpful if your organization experiences problems with internet connection, but you are still able to handle interactions (i.e. take phone calls, or handle walk-in requests) and provide referrals. You can create this backup file using our standard Resources Data Export tool, or even better, use the Specialized Exports of Resources to Word/Excel feature if your organization is subscribed to it, which provides even more flexibility in how these exports are presented and organized. Use the links above to read the related help articles to learn more about each tool to create a backup of your Resources.
Backup Contact Records
It’s also a good idea to create an offline, back-up copy of your Contact Records for your users to access in case your organization ever experiences problems with internet connection. Depending on the complexity of your forms, you may wish to simply save a printable version of your Contact Forms for your users to print out, or for more complex Contact Forms you may wish to transpose your Contact Forms into an editable document so your users can fill out the form on the computer. Some of our users even create paper copies for use in the event of a full power outage. Then, once internet connection is re-established, you should have a process in place to enter the data into iCarol so the interactions are included in statistical reporting.
It’s likely your organization already has processes in place to complete most of these tasks throughout the year. But if you don’t, now might be a good time to consider if you want to develop any processes for the new year to help you stay on track with completing these tasks on a regular basis so you’re optimizing your iCarol system.
Advocating for the needs of your organization and the clients you serve is a huge component of the overall survival and success of your agency. Some may find the prospect of lobbying elected officials intimidating and confusing, but it’s actually not as complex or scary as it may seem!
We invite you to attend a webinar on this topic on Tuesday, December 11th at 2pm EST. Sara Sedlacek from The Crisis Center of Johnson County will present information that takes the mystery and intimidation out of the advocacy process, helping you get the ear and support of the local, state, and federal officials elected to represent you and the people who benefit from your services.
With legislative sessions beginning in January, now is the time to learn more about how to advocate for your organization.
We are currently seeking a qualified candidate to fill an open position of Solutions Expert on our Sales Team. This member of the team will be responsible for hunting for and qualifying new business opportunities.
Our ideal candidate will be a self-starter, charismatic, and be highly motivated with some prior success in hunting for, identifying, qualifying and closing high quality business opportunities. Candidates will identify the needs of the customer, demonstrate the benefits of the software and present the iCarol solution to local government agencies and not-for-profit organizations, growing the customer base as well as enhancing relationships with existing customers. The ideal candidate is an inquisitive, self-starter who is interested in finding the best solution to fit the needs of our customers. They may also have previous direct sales experience, with experience working with the iCarol solution being a plus, preferably as an iCarol Admin.
To read the full details of our job listing and apply, click here.