The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through its Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), announced a $282 million investment to help transition the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from its current 10-digit number to a three-digit dialing code – 988.
Once implemented, the 988 code is intended to be a first step toward transforming crisis care in the United States by creating a universal entry point to needed crisis services in line with access to other emergency medical services.
With funds from the Biden-Harris Administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget and additional funds from the American Rescue Plan, SAMHSA’s $282 million investment will support 988 efforts across the country to shore up, scale up and staff up, including:
- $177 million to strengthen and expand the existing Lifeline network operations and telephone infrastructure, including centralized chat/text response, backup center capacity, and special services (e.g., a sub-network for Spanish language-speakers).
- $105 million to build up staffing across states’ local crisis call centers.
Click here to read more about this funding announcement.
The team at iCarol is excited to see the commitment and investment on behalf of the US government towards the 988 initiative. We believe that 988 will improve accessibility and equity for Americans seeking emotional support and assistance. By designating a three-digit number for suicide prevention and mental health crises, our leaders send a clear message that these concerns deserve the same immediate attention and access to assistance as a physical health emergency, while also reducing harmful stigmas that create barriers to treatment. As the leading software provider among the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network of centers, we stand ready to support our customers making the transition to answering 988, and welcome new centers coming on board for the 988 initiative.
This blog was originally published in December 2020. As this pandemic rages on, the message remains relevant, and so we’re sharing it with you again to mark the 2021 holiday season.
Content warning: This post discusses sensitive topics such as suicide and abuse.
In a year as strange and relentless as 2020, I needed a sense of normalcy more than ever this holiday season, and that came in the form of my annual viewing of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In years’ past, the film’s theme of suicide prevention struck me most. But like a lot of things, the experience of 2020 placed a new filter over the movie for me, and I started noticing elements that, while always there, hadn’t been as noticeable to me before.
The crises of 2020 were relentless. And when the bad news just keeps coming and it feels there’s no end in sight, no clear solution or relief, it can be easy to fall into total despair. George Bailey experiences this very thing in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” George passed on his own dreams so the dreams of others could be realized and those he loved could be happy, and for awhile he appears okay with that. Then a series of crises compound, and old trauma and resentments quickly rise to the surface. George, completely devoid of hope and solutions, is now staring into the icy churning waters of a river flowing beneath him. For all his good deeds and sacrifices, look at how bad things are. What was it all for? He contemplates how the world might be better off if he wasn’t here, or if he never existed at all.
George’s scenario got me thinking about the exhaustive work so many people have been doing all throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, only to have things stay the same, or get worse, day in and day out, with no relief in sight. When there’s no clear impact or positive change to motivate you, to reassure you that your sacrifices and work matters, how do you keep going? How do you resist despair and hopelessness?
I think the answer is similar to what we see in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” George can’t see his positive impact until he’s shown a world without him in it. Perhaps we need to briefly imagine what the world would look like without those forces of good working hard to help others.
What would our world look like now if helplines, contact centers, and other community services didn’t exist?
Contact centers and Information and Referral services like 2-1-1 commonly act as their community’s primary source of information about COVID-19, providing information on everything from common symptoms to look for and where to go to get tested. In many cases 2-1-1 became the official state/provincial source of COVID-19 information. Without that centralized information delivery service, health departments, emergency rooms, and medical offices are overwhelmed with people seeking information. Phone lines jam and human resources are syphoned from direct care treating those who are ill. Fewer people know where to get tested. More people get sick, and more lives are lost as a result.
The economic fallout from the pandemic will be with us for some time. Some say the financial recovery may take longer than public health recovery. Thankfully, people looking for financial assistance for their very survival—help with utilities or food—had places to reach. Places where a compassionate and knowledgeable specialist could, in a single interaction, provide ideas and resources that may help with several needs. Without those contact centers, those in need are left feeling lost and overwhelmed. Already worn down by their situation, they must now spend time and effort navigating the network of community services on their own. They don’t know how the systems work. They are frustrated and even more overwhelmed. It takes longer to access assistance. They miss several meals. They only find out about a fraction of the services for which they were eligible.
Quarantines and stay-at-home orders kept people at home more, and for many the people they live with are a source of comfort. For others, it’s a source of conflict or even danger. Suddenly, vulnerable individuals suffering abuse at the hands of a parent or partner, or LGBTQIA youth living with unsupportive family members, were cut off from their daily escapes and support systems. Without services specializing in providing safety and emotional support, they become more isolated. Tensions in the household rise. Abused partners and Queer youth have no professional confidential counseling to access quietly and privately through chats or text messages. There’s no emergency shelter to escape to.
Viruses and physical health have taken center stage this year, but the mental health toll is undeniable. We’ve been going through a collective, worldwide trauma. Everything familiar was disrupted and the entire concept of “normal” disappeared overnight. Many people are experiencing emotions they aren’t sure what to do with, and they aren’t ready to talk to their friends or loved ones. Others lack those connections and are processing things all on their own. Imagine a world without an outlet to help one cope with those feelings. No warmlines or impartial empathetic listeners, no crisis or suicide prevention services. The emotional suffering deepens and spreads, and we lose even more people to a different type of pandemic—suicide—that was present long before COVID-19.
So yes, 2020 was the worst, filled with more crises happening all at once than many of us could have imagined. And in a seemingly never-ending string of challenges, it may feel at times like your contributions, all your exhaustive efforts, aren’t making a dent. If reassurance and evidence of your impact seems elusive, think back to George Bailey’s tour of seedy Pottersville, the bad place version of Bedford Falls. Close your eyes and take a stroll through that scary, imaginary world without organizations like yours, and see that things could actually be much worse. It’s because of the good work of those who care, like you, that it isn’t.
It’s hard to believe that soon we’ll be closing out yet another year. The passage of time has felt especially fast lately. The year prior, everything was exceptionally strange and most agree 2020 far overstayed its welcome. By comparison, the months each felt only a few days long throughout 2021.
For our customers, 2021 was another year where you were asked to do more for your communities than ever before, stretching your resources as much as possible to meet emergent and rapidly evolving needs. Many of our customer organizations continued to play a critical roll in COVID-19 response, for example contracting with local health authorities to take calls for COVID-19 hotlines and in many cases assisting with vaccine rollout efforts. As a result, you have improved the health of your communities and helped save lives. We couldn’t be more proud or honored to be associated with the amazing work you do.
The global pandemic advanced the need for communities to solve problems by coordinating efforts between agencies to reduce duplication of work and ease participation for consumers of services, all while collecting and sharing important data to prove impact that drives creation of new services and the funding to make it happen. As a result, we’ve received more requests than ever before from customers who need to participate in health information exchanges, securely pass intake information to a partner, and close the loop on outcomes and results of the services received. We’re delighted that our customers are making use of iCarol’s flexibility to help you leverage your data and say “yes” to these projects, and it has motivated us to continue to stay ahead of the innovation happening in these areas. Meeting your needs with technology, and giving you options in how you can engage with others to help your communities, will always be something that drives us here at iCarol.
Looking ahead, we know that the impacts of COVID will be with us for a long time to come, and so we’re prepared to continue brainstorming solutions with you as needs evolve. We expect the mental health and economic impacts to reverberate for years to come, which means your core services providing listening and empathy, connection to helpful services, and crisis intervention will be more important than ever. It’s appropriate timing that the U.S. will launch three digit dialing for suicide prevention and mental/behavioral health crises in the form of 9-8-8, coming in July of 2022. We’ve spoken to many organizations who will be participating 988 centers asking us how iCarol can assist. We’re committed to helping this new network meet its goals of creating better, more comprehensive mental and behavioral health systems and look forward to those continuing conversations, your ideas, and finally seeing 9-8-8 become a reality in July.
In envisioning new and better ways for the systems of care to work, we understand that your work is growing less transactional and more about seeing someone through a situation long term, building a relationship and being a part of their network of support. To that end, you may recall we asked you some questions a few months back about your case management needs and how well they are being served by us. We’re excited to say that thanks to your feedback, we’ve discovered several areas where we can improve and add tools to iCarol that will help you do this work better. To learn a bit more about this, I hope you’ll join our upcoming annual “State of iCarol” webinar in January where we’ll share some of what we have in mind for these sorts of developments in 2022. Stay tuned to the blog, and watch your iCarol Dashboard and email inbox for an invite. If you don’t already get our emails, I hope you’ll sign up here so we can stay in touch with you.
I hope that each of you, and your entire teams, can take time to be with the people and do the things that are most meaningful and rejuvenating for you. We see you, your dedication to your work of helping others and improving the world around you, and the clear positive impact you have. We look forward to another year serving you and wish you a happy holiday season and a bright New Year.
Are you looking to start a new career opportunity in 2022? We have several openings on our team at the moment, and are currently accepting applications! iCarol is looking to add team members to our Business Development Team in the role of Inside Sales Professional, and our Client Support and Implementation Team in the role of Client Support Implementation Specialist (CSIS).
The Inside Sales Professional is responsible for searching for new leads and opportunities to add more organizations to the iCarol family. This sales team member helps connect prospective customers with the right iCarol solutions for their agency and works with them to close the sale. Learn more about this open position.
The Client Support and Implementation Specialist 1 (CSIS1) is responsible for implementing new name and back to base sales, answering complex questions, contributing to a knowledge base, and advocating for the needs of the client. The CSIS is accountable for ensuring continuity of computer system services by providing the technical expertise, the assistance and project coordination necessary to maintain computer software products, and resolve technical problems. Learn more about this open position.
The iCarol Support Team holds monthly trainings on topics that our customers want more information about. These trainings are offered on the third Wednesday of every month at 2pm Eastern.
Our topic for the December webinar is ReferralQ & Capacity Tracking and Provider Portal features.
ReferralQ and Capacity Tracking enables you to document and track referrals to a particular service that you work closely with, including information such as the service’s capacity to accept referrals. The Provider Portal is a separate product that complements ReferralQ by inviting your partners secure, direct access to view and update authorized ReferralQ information. With the Provider Portal your partners can input their program’s capacity to take referrals, obtain Contact Record or Intake information about the help-seekers referred to them, and update the status of a referred help-seeker as they work with the CBO.
We’re excited to share more information about these products with our customers on our next monthly training webinar!
Date: Wednesday, December 15
Time: 2pm Eastern
During this webinar, participants will learn:
- What is the ReferralQ & Capacity Tracking feature?
- What is the Provider Portal feature?
- How can these features be used together?
- What are some use cases for the features?
We welcome and encourage our customers to attend! You can find the registration link on the Admin Dashboard or in our Help Center announcements.
In recent years, Giving Tuesday has emerged as a counterbalance to the consumer-based Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday shopping traditions. It serves as a reminder that the holiday season is about charitable acts of kindness and helping our neighbors in need. Giving Tuesday (this year it’s held on November 30th) is an excellent opportunity for non-profits and charities to tell their communities about the work they do and encourage charitable giving to their organization. Smaller organizations or those that may be completely volunteer based shouldn’t feel incapable of participating — you don’t need a dedicated marketing team to take part in Giving Tuesday.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to sideline a lot of projects, but Giving Tuesday shouldn’t be one of them. Yes, there are extra precautions to take and you may have to adjust your plans to keep everyone safe and comply with any restrictions in place. By now you’ve had to creatively adapt to a lot of things in 2020 and 2021 — doing so for this event should be no problem! In fact, you should lean into fundraising efforts now more than ever — experts share that donors are focused on giving to local organizations, especially those who have provided direct response to the Coronavirus pandemic. However, it is important that you are extra sensitive and mindful that donors themselves are likely having a tough time, so carefully think through your messaging.
Below are some simple ideas to try that don’t take a large budget or tons of advanced planning.
- Simple Social Media
At a minimum, your social media accounts should publish posts about Giving Tuesday (remember to use the hashtag #GivingTuesday to maximize your reach!). Post throughout the day or schedule your posts ahead of time with social media management software like Hootsuite, Buffer, or Sprout Social. Posts should include a call to action, i.e. do you want them to donate? Volunteer? Learn more about your work? Become an advocate? Depending on the call to action, include links to applicable web pages such as your volunteer opportunity or donation pages. Posts can focus on the work you do, success stories (shared either with client permission or written to remove identifying info), milestones and achievements, goals, and other information that you’d like your community to know about you. Examples of general Giving Tuesday social media posts can be found here. We’re always happy to help you boost your Giving Tuesday social media messages, so be sure to follow us on Twitter so we can follow you back to see your posts in our feed, then we can retweet your message to our followers.
- Share Video or Photos
Images and video are more compelling than text-only posts, and most social media sites say that posts that include them get more views, so use them if you can. Lean into content that focuses on how your organization has worked through COVID-19 to continue providing services, and why the services you provide are needed now more than ever. Your video doesn’t have to be Academy Award worthy — spontaneous and unrehearsed videos are authentic and give people a sense of who you are. If you’re working in an office, try a quick interview with a colleague about what they do and why they love working for your agency. Those working remotely can submit videos filmed themselves at home. Videos should be short and sweet, as most research shows short videos are the most watched. For more video guidance, check out this article by London based creative advertising agency Don’t Panic.
After taking the video you can usually do some light editing or clipping right on your phone before posting it to social media. If you’re feeling brave you can even do a live video right from platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, directly from a mobile phone.
- Engage Your Neighbors
Hopefully your organization is lucky enough to have some supporters in the business community that work with you throughout the year by holding fundraisers or making donations. Giving Tuesday is another perfect opportunity to engage with your biggest fans. Perhaps they’d be willing to post a short video to their social media feeds. Or maybe they’d do something as simple as keep a donation box or stack of your agency’s brochures at their register or other space in their business. Most businesses, especially those that already support your work, will welcome the opportunity to continue their advocacy during the holiday season. Many businesses are also motivated to align themselves with the work of non-profits especially now, to show that they are giving back to the community.
- Work Your Website
Your website is one of your greatest assets, especially now that so much of what we do is online rather than in-person, so make sure your Giving Tuesday participation is prominently featured there. This can be accomplished through something as simple as a blog post or homepage image, or more advanced like adding a new temporary banner or widget to your homepage that directs website visitors to your donation page, volunteer application, etc.
- Don’t Let Callers Off the Hook
If when people call you they first hear a general message or listen to a menu routing them to their desired destination, consider temporarily altering your greeting in honor of Giving Tuesday. This can be as simple as a 10-15 second “hello” wishing them a happy holiday season and inviting them to support your work, along with an invitation to visit your website for more information. This won’t add much at all to their wait time but will get your message in front of everyone who calls you.
- Shop and Donate
Did you know you can integrate Giving Tuesday into your donors’ other post-Thanksgiving activities like Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Some online retailers now offer donation integration as part of their shopping experience. The most well-known of these is the Amazon Smile program. Non-profits and charities can register their organization and shoppers can designate that agency as their charity of voice when shopping on the platform. Amazon donates a portion of eligible sales proceeds from those transactions back to the non-profit organization. It is remarkably easy for your donors to set this up when shopping — you simply need to get registered and promote it to those who support your work. Your donors can then do all their normal holiday shopping and support your services at the same time — WIN/WIN!
How is your agency planning to make the most of Giving Tuesday? Leave a comment below with your plans, or any ideas we may have missed! And be sure to follow iCarol on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and we will try to share your Giving Tuesday post as our way of saying thanks for the work you do!
Did you know that iCarol’s Resource Database API is now fully bi-directional?
What does this mean? iCarol Resource database records can now be created and/or updated using the API.
iCarol was a pioneer among the I&R and Contact Center Software vendors with our Resource Database API, which was first released in 2013.
We’ve done it again with these new enhancements that can now be done outside of iCarol, directly into to your iCarol Resource database using the Resource Database API:
- Update, create, or delete resource records from external software systems
Save time, increase efficiency, get new records from your partners quicker than ever—when time is of the essence
- Decide to have new records and updates happen automatically, or as part of an automated verification process
Maintain necessary control of how you want the partnerships to work, while having flexibility to change quickly as needed
- And we’ve continued with the ability we’ve always had where you can provide different partners different key access with different permissions
Here are just some possibilities that have been discussed with this new enhancement:
- Open the door to partnership ideas and revenue streams that were not possible before
- Feed data to warehouses and/or reporting tools and accept changes to the records in iCarol from those external sources
- Partner with other referral partners who may be on other information and referral software, in more ways than ever before
- Allow more options to health and human service partners who need direct access your resource database and need to let you know of new additions and changes themselves
- Make yourself more marketable to healthcare providers/for healthcare partnerships who may be interested in access to your resource database, and may want easier options to let you know of changes to resources
- Collaboration, coalition and Community Information Exchange (CIE) efforts can be even more streamlined
An overview of capabilities that have been available for some time with the iCarol Resource API:
And here’s what’s NEW:
Now is the perfect time to explore what iCarol’s Bi-direction Resource API can do for your organization and your partners.
Are you a current iCarol user? As we’ve previously shared, our November Support Training is about the API! Join our webinar Wednesday, November 17th at 2:00pm Eastern. Register by signing in to iCarol and opening the iCarol Help Center where the webinar description and registration link is posted as an Announcement.
Get In Touch!
Email Us Schedule a Meeting
Director of Business Development and Marketing – Remote
We are currently accepting applications for the position of Director of Business Development and Marketing.
The team member in this position is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Sales department, including Marketing and Communications. This position manages all employees of the department and is responsible for the performance management, hiring and training of the employees within that department.
What your impact will be:
- Gather and analyze market data and industry trends.
- Develop relevant annual sales strategies that are congruent with market analyses of a competitive sector
- Build and execute against aggressive growth plans
- Build strong prospect/customer relationships
- Generate leads through all necessary channels
- Build a strong pipeline of qualified prospects
- Attend sales presentations
- Achieve sales goals and enable team to achieve targets through efficient management and constant support
- Prepare reports detailing the status of all accounts
- Prepare and maintain the monthly sales bookings forecast
- Work to create a marketing brand
- Oversee conference attendance and participation to help drive new business and grow the market awareness of the company.
- Manage/realign territories as needed
- Understand and monitor the win/loss rates to be able to determine ROI for each activity. Understand the sales cycle within each vertical and design sales strategies that drive organic growth.
- Handle the financial resources (revenue and spending allocated to the department, cost control, etc.) and provide forecast updates and reporting as required.
- Make sure customers are satisfied during and after service delivery and process complaints, if any
- Be an ambassador for the use of iCarol and suggest best practices for its use
- Some travel is required.
- Collaboration with other iCarol teams and departments to seek out and share ideas for process improvements to help guide the company’s growth and ensure a quality product for our client base.
What we are looking for:
- 3 to 5+ years of experience in software or institutional sales management
- Superior oral and written skills
- Demonstrated ability to determine and then transform customer needs/requirements into an opportunity for the company
- Strong business development experience
- Experience in client prospecting or seeking funding or partnership opportunities
- High level of problem solving and analytical skills
- Experience carrying a sales quota and achieving success of this quota Experience building out a high-performance team
- Ability to work in a team and be hands on with customers in achieving their success
- Strong critical thinking skills, decisiveness, and willingness to appropriately accept risk
- Experience in industry, technology needs associated to industry, and in introducing new products is an asset
- Experience with Zoho CRM and managing a CRM as an administrator.
What will make you standout?
- iCarol software experience
- Previous experience selling to charitable or non-profit organizations, securing funding, or building successful partnerships/programs, for a non-profit is preferred.
Learn More and Apply
One of the things I like most about Halloween is that it offers such a wide range of ways to participate and have fun. Horror movies not your thing? You can stick to fun activities like carving a jack-o-lantern and handing out candy to trick or treaters (in normal, non-pandemic years at least). And then there are the endless costume possibilities. You can be anything from a superhero to your favorite movie character to some very obscure cultural reference or the more traditional choice of ghost or vampire.
So with that range of costume possibilities and ways to have fun in mind, it’s always deeply upsetting to see Halloween become an event where mental illness is misrepresented and stigmatized. Some haunted house attractions are centered around “asylum” themes, or have a “haunted psych ward” component. Actors wearing straight jackets or wielding weapons chase visitors and shout lines about hearing voices. The message is very clear: Mental illness, and people who experience mental illness, are scary, violent, and to be feared.
In recent years, several costumes have been pulled from the shelves following pressure from mental health advocates. Unfortunately every year there are still a few new inappropriate and offensive costumes that pop up and make their way to stores and online retailers, and regrettably they are eventually seen out in public at bars and parties. And each time one is sold and then worn, it perpetuates the stigma and misconceptions around mental illness.
These interjections of mental illness into Halloween are neither fun nor harmless, but keep in place harmful stereotypes. These attractions and costumes continue pushing the idea that a person living with mental illness is violent and should be avoided. Discrimination is still a problem for people living with mental illness, and every day those who experience symptoms choose not to seek help for fear of mistreatment by the public, or that their relationships with family and friends will suffer. These depictions also hurt those who have experienced mental illness, especially those who have been hospitalized. Their deepest fears about what society thinks of them are realized when they see illness become a subject of fear-based entertainment.
It would never be acceptable to have haunted houses set in a hospice or cancer wing of a hospital, nor would we find cancer patient costumes to be appropriate. It’s important that we all speak up when we see mental illness being stigmatized, and stand up for those who have experience with illness and are negatively impacted by the perpetuation of stigma.
Client Support Implementation Specialist (CSIS) – Remote
Are you a current or former user of iCarol Software with a belief in and passion for the missions of non-profit helplines and contact centers? Would you enjoy guiding new iCarol users through their onboarding process as they prepare to use iCarol at their not-for-profit helpline? Do you enjoy troubleshooting problems to find solutions, and guiding people to answers that will help them? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you could be the next member of the iCarol Support Team!
We are currently accepting applications for the position of Client Support and Implementation Specialist
The Client Support and Implementation Specialist 1 (CSIS1) is responsible for implementing new name and back to base sales, answering complex questions, contributing to a knowledge base, and advocating for the needs of the client. The CSIS is accountable for ensuring continuity of computer system services by providing the technical expertise, the assistance and project coordination necessary to maintain computer software products, and resolve technical problems.
What your impact will be:
- Configure new systems and features and train clients how to use iCarol to best meet their organizations’ needs
- Monitors and answers incoming support chats and tickets, working directly with customers to help solve problems
- Resolves issues or escalates issues to CSIS2 when more expertise is needed
- Assists with release management by testing bug fixes and software enhancements, and other upgrade rollout tasks as required
- Stay abreast on the latest developments in software through self-learning/training
- Uses discretion to effect timely solution of problems to ensure customer satisfaction, eliminate downtime and prevent cost overruns
- Maintains client relationships
- Aids in creating and providing support documentation
- Identifies solutions for customers related to potential up sales, escalating to the Sales Team when needed
- Exercises sound professional judgment in analysis of problems to: (1) attempt hardware/software solution by screenshare, or (2) decide proper level of maintenance required to solve problem
- Other duties as assigned
What we are looking for:
- Honesty, patience, and motivation are core values of the iCarol team
- A passionate belief in the mission of help lines and respect for their callers
- A high degree of responsiveness to client requests and issues
- Strong proficiency and comfort using computers and the web
- General to intermediate knowledge of computers, internet browsers (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, etc.) and Microsoft Office products (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
- Project management skills will be a plus
- Due to the nature of the work our clients do (ie. you will have access to client ePHI), our policies require you to sign a confidentiality agreement and pass a basic criminal background check in addition to annual HIPAA security training.
What will make you standout?
- At least 2 years of experience working at a help line, preferably both on the phones and in an administrative role
- At least 2 years of experience as an iCarol Admin
- Bachelor’s degree preferred
Learn More and Apply