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Home  |  iCarol Blog  |  211 and Resource Referral

Hurricane Harvey brings record flooding to Texas

4th Reconnaissance Marines support rescue efforts in wake of Hurricane Harvey

Like many others, we’ve been watching the effects of Hurricane Harvey in southeast Texas, stunned by the images of record setting flooding and the impact on residents. In particular we’ve been thinking of all of our friends and clients in this area. As is typical of helpline work, they have an important role to play in disaster planning, relief and recovery, all while their own homes and families are at risk. We’re told that 2-1-1 Texas has remained operational throughout — a truly amazing feat in the wake of this historic hurricane. As we hear from them and gain permission to share their experience and stories of those they helped, we hope to bring that information to you.

Harvey serves as a reminder to all non-profit services and particularly helplines, contact centers, and 2-1-1s that you have a role to play in your community’s disaster plan as government services look for partner organizations that can disseminate life-saving information, offload call volume to government switchboards, and provide information across a variety of communication methods to make sure everyone is reached. Meanwhile, these not-for-profits naturally have to concern themselves with the safety of their own staff and their own infrastructure in order to remain operational. With Hurricane Irma now making its way towards North and Central America, and months left in hurricane season, it’s time to consider your disaster plan. And of course disaster goes far beyond tropical storms and flooding. Wild fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards, and other forms of disaster threaten communities across the globe.

We’ve recently been made aware of a website that provides a number of free resources helpful to any organization as they plan and prepare for disasters. You can access these resources here.

If you are interested in aiding in Harvey relief efforts, the United Way has announced establishment of a Harvey Recovery Fund. In the midst of these events it’s usually recommended to donate money rather than items, as storage space tends to be in short supply but cash allows organizations to purchase items on the ground for immediate distribution. They’ve offered information on the various ways you can make meaningful contributions on their website.

We extend our warm thoughts to everyone impacted by Hurricane Harvey. If you have information about relief efforts or if your organization has been directly impacted by Harvey and you would like to share your stories, please .

Photo appears courtesy of the United States Department of Defense. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Niles Lee.

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Ontario 211 Website Wins Microsoft Canada Citizenship and Community Award

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Congratulations to our friends at Ontario 211 (ON211) — recent winners of the 2017 Citizen and Community Global Impact Award for their website, along with partners BDO IT Solutions. This award is granted to an organization that exhibits excellence in creating solutions that improve communities.

This award is a result of a partnership between ON211 and BDO IT Solutions to create a cost-effective, web-enabled solution aimed at transforming ON211’s online presence and among other goals, making their website easier for community members to navigate and find needed resources. BDO worked closely with Ontario 211 Services to develop the service on Microsoft’s technologies and implement in the Microsoft cloud, Azure. ON211 Resource records are curated in the iCarol database and that data is made accessible to the website via the iCarol Resource API.

Read ON211′s full press release about the project and award here.

Find out more about iCarol’s Resource API here and here, and please contact us if you’d like to learn even more about using the Resource API at your organization.

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How to Document Needs by Taxonomy on Call Report Forms

Public Resource Directory

Many iCarol clients are required to collect and report on the needs of their help seekers. Those clients who use the AIRS taxonomy are able to do so using a tool called Needs by Taxonomy. There is no additional fee to use this tool as it is included for those who subscribe to the Taxonomy in iCarol, but a member of the iCarol Support Team will need to turn it on in your call reports forms. Once this tool is turned on, you may use the instructions below to document Needs by Taxonomy.

To begin, click the “Search for Resources” link in the upper right hand corner of the call report form. This will open the Resource search screen.

Open Resource Search

Next, conduct a search for a taxonomy term. Please note this tool only works when searching by Taxonomy, not when completing a Resources or a Keywords search. When the search results are returned, a box labelled “Terms searched” will appear indicating what taxonomy term was searched, as shown below.

Terms searched

When you view the details of a record, you will see a link at the top of the screen that says “Choose terms best describing the caller need for this referral”. If you click this link, you will see a list of all the taxonomy terms assigned to the resource. The taxonomy term you searched will already be checked, and you can choose additional terms or change the term checked if you would like. To make a referral to the resource, click the “Make referral” button.

Choose needs and make referral

On the Resources tab of the call report, the taxonomy term describing the need will now be at the top of the tab. You can check and uncheck which referrals met the need. By default, the Met/Unmet column will show “Need was met”.

Select whether need was met or unmet

In cases where a referral could not be found to meet the need of the help seeker, the need can still be documented and noted as unmet. To do so, conduct a taxonomy search. When the search results and the “Terms searched” box are shown, click the blue plus sign next to the taxonomy term search to change it to a green check mark.

Unmet need 1

Unmet need 2

Close the Resource Search screen and view the resources tab of the call report. There will now be a second Need noted, but with no referral. If you click the drop-down menu in the Met/Unmet column, you can choose a reason why the need was unmet. iCarol includes a default list of unmet need reasons, but this list can be customized by making a request to the iCarol Support Team.

Unmet need reason

If anyone has any further questions about the Needs by Taxonomy tool, please feel free to contact the iCarol Support Team via the online case management system.

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Epilepsy Foundation seeks after-hours provider

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The Epilepsy Foundation is seeking applications from those who have a documented expertise in answering information and referral calls; a phone system that can handle an independent call queue specific to Epilepsy Foundation calls and a separate queue for Spanish calls; capacity to expand staff coverage if warranted; and documentation of current AIRS Accreditation. Please review the RFP for full requirements and direct questions and proposals to:

    Tom Buckley
    Director of Information & Referral
    Epilepsy Foundation
    301-918-3770
    tbuckley@efa.org

Key dates to consider:

    Proposal Deadline: July 26, 2017
    Vendor Selection Date: August 16, 2017
    Project Start Date: September 11, 2017
    Vendor Information Call: July 13, 2017

The Epilepsy Foundation, a national family-led, community based, non-profit with nearly 50 local organizations throughout the United States, has led the fight against seizures since 1968. The Foundation is an unwavering ally for individuals and families impacted by epilepsy and seizures. The Foundation works to prevent, control, and cure epilepsy through community services; public education; federal and local advocacy; and supporting research into new treatments and therapies. The Foundation works to ensure that people with seizures have the opportunity to live their lives to their fullest potential. The Epilepsy Foundation’s National Office is in Metropolitan Washington, D.C.

The Epilepsy Foundation operates a national specialized information and referral (I&R), helpline that serves people who are concerned about epilepsy. The Alliance of Information & Referral Systems, a driving force behind the delivery of quality Information & Referral services, currently accredits the Epilepsy & Seizures 24/7 Helpline. The helpline responds to approximately 12,000 inquiries per year. Approximately 8,000 are telephone calls, 250 of these calls are via the Spanish line.

The Epilepsy Foundation National Office operates Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Eastern Time and on adjusted hours during the summer months. In 2013, the Epilepsy & Seizures Helpline began 24-hour coverage through an after-hours partnership where the partner handles telephone inquiries during the evening, weekend, holidays, and adjusted hours. In addition, the partner handles the Epilepsy Foundation Spanish line 24/7/365.

Learn more about the foundation on their website, and about their helpline here.

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The new Public Resource Directory is here!

PRD2

One of the greatest challenges for non-profit services is adapting to the new and varied ways in which the people in your community want and need to access your services. We’re dedicated to helping our clients face those challenges head-on with innovative solutions that help you help your community through the methods that work for them.

One of those solutions is iCarol’s Public Resource Directory (PRD): A feature that takes your iCarol Resource Database and turns it into a public-facing, searchable directory of community services. By taking your internally curated database and placing it online for public access, you’re expanding your reach, helping more people, and accommodating the growing number of individuals who prefer self-service over engaging directly with your specialists.

Late last year we shared with you our plans to refresh the iCarol Public Resource Directory and add some new tools and other enhancements. We’re excited to say that this new version of the PRD has officially launched! When you use this PRD you’ll enjoy:

    A built-in Guided Search builder that allows your Resource Specialists to bypass web developers and instead build a guided, graphical search right within the PRD. For more on guided searching, stay tuned to our blog for details on an upcoming webinar on that topic.

    Intuitive geographic searching that is easy for your visitors to use. They can simply begin typing in their known geographic location, be it zip/postal code, city, county, or state/province, to produce results that are relevant to their location.

    Expanded customization around the look and feel of the PRD using Cascading Style Sheets that allow you to blend the search seamlessly into your website with highly granular control over things like font sizes types and colors, background color, logo integration, and more.

    Mobile responsive functionality, delivering a mobile-friendly experience that rivals that of more costly mobile apps and accommodating the many individuals using their mobile phones or other handheld devices as their primary means of accesing the internet.

    Relevant search results that improve your clients’ outcomes over what they’d likely experience if they tried to search for helpful resources on their own via a regular internet search engine. When your web visitors search or browse your PRD, they’re benefitting from your expert curation of the resources, reducing their frustration and confusion as they try to address their challenges.

To see some of these benefits in action, check out our video about the Public Resource Directory.

The PRD is available now and we encourage you to contact our Support Team to learn more about the upgrade process. Also stay tuned to our blog for announcements on upcoming webinars that provide further insight on using the PRD.

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Harness Your Data – The Latest Enhancements to the iCarol Resource API

iCarol API

In recent months we’ve released a few enhancements to our Resource API that we’re excited to tell you about. But wait, before I get ahead of myself…

What is an API?

API stands for Application Program Interface, but it might as well stand for “Awesome Possibilities Increase” because it enables you to do all sorts of exciting things with your Resource record data and opens up a world of new options for what you can do with the service provider information you curate.

An API provides a way for web and application developers to access and display, in their own creative way, resource data housed within iCarol. These developers can query, or ask questions of, the resource data in your database that’s made available to them through the API, and iCarol will answer by responding with the resource records that match their request. This advanced tool allows them to be creative and do things like create resource directories, search tools, resource lists or any other application that displays or uses resource data.

Using the iCarol Resource API, our users have engaged with their developers to do things like…

  • Create mobile apps that show mapped resources near a person in need, and provide them with record details
  • Build completely custom designed resource searches , ways to view resource record details on their website
  • Partner with other organizations to contribute resource information to their database — collaborations that are often revenue generators

Like other areas of iCarol, our Resource API undergoes regular maintenance and enhancements through periodic releases, and lately our team has been very busy making the Resource API better than ever! What have we done for you lately?

Initiate Automated Resource Verification Requests

One of our enhancements has the Resource API working with another iCarol feature, Automated Resource Verification. Automated Resource Verification enables you to ensure resource accuracy while simultaneously saving hundreds or thousands, depending on the size of your resource database, of hours of staff time spent updating records. Using this feature, Resource Managers can generate batches of resources due for verification or updates, and send a verification request to contacts who work at those programs and agencies, requesting their input on the record information. The email includes a hyperlink that, when clicked, provides the contact with a live look at the information on file in the iCarol database. This contact can make suggested edits and submit them directly on this web page. When this request arrives back in the iCarol system, Resource Managers can review the submitted information, and make their own changes and edits, before accepting the verification. Once accepted and applied, the resource record reflects all of the updates with the click of a button. This solution is far better than spending time playing phone tag, sending manual emails, or sending out mailers and then updating records manually, field by field, when you finally receive responses. The Automated Resource Verification feature not only saves you time and money, but your resource contacts will appreciate the convenient process through which they can update their information and ensure clients are receiving the right information about their services.

With this new development to the Resource API, your web developers can create a process for your public users to automatically send a verification request to a service provider, prompting them to begin the verification process. Because the Resource API gives you the control to choose when, and who can send requests you can have your web or application developer create a process that meets your unique needs. Overall, being able to initiate new AVR requests using the Resource API gives you another way to ensure your resources have the most recent and accurate information available.

Filter results by Custom Field

There are over 100 difference “standard” fields available for use in your iCarol Resource Database which allow you to track and curate resource information you need to help your community. Some of these fields include Phone Numbers, Address, Languages Spoken, Description of services, etc. are of these are commonly used in the industry and describe what a service is, how it is offered and who it serves. However, many of our customers also use Custom Fields in their resource records to collect and display additional information that does not fit perfectly in a standard field. Custom Fields are often used to track additional eligibility, contact information, updating priorities, and to create custom filters for call and chat specialists to refine search results.

With this enhancement to the Resource API, the resources returned from a API request can be filtered by the resources with a specific custom field selection. This allows you, among other things, to create subject-specific Resource API Portals, which you can use to harness your data on your own website, and even to access new revenue opportunities with partners wanting subject or issue specific resources.

For example, you may have a partnership with a local service provider such as a domestic violence shelter or LGBTQ center, who would like to display a subset of your resources on their website or in an application they are building. They know and trust the great work you do curating a resource database, and they don’t want duplicate your efforts. They would like to contract with (and pay!) you to access your resources by subscribing to a Resource API Portal that has filtered results, of just resources that you have identified as serving their communities.

Summary

With all the time and effort you spend collecting, updating, maintaining, and curating resource information, you could and should leverage it to improve your service offerings and get more funding for your organization. The iCarol Resource API is a great way to expand the possibilities of what you can do with your resource data, and these latest enhancements go even further to boost your ability to help the public or explore new partnerships and revenue streams.

To find out more about the Resource API, including these new enhancements, check out the Help area of iCarol, or contact our Support Team if you have specific questions, or want to start using the Resource API at your center.

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Happy Anniversary to North Carolina 2-1-1!

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Our friends at United Way of North Carolina/NC 2-1-1 are celebrating their first anniversary with iCarol in the best way possible — snacks and cake shared amongst their hardworking staff! We think our logo looks pretty delicious as a cake decoration.

North Carolina 211 United Way iCarol anniversary

It’s been quite an eventful year for their team, including navigating the challenges that came with Hurricane Matthew and the subsequent flooding in their region. Through it all the dedicated people at NC 2-1-1 were there for the community, connecting them with resources and logging over 12,000 interactions into iCarol during that disaster. Wow!

NC 211 anniversary quote

We just love that they took the time to recognize the milestone and we couldn’t be happier to count them among our users. “Happy Anniversary” to the entire team in North Carolina! We appreciate the great work you do and are thrilled and honored to have you as a part of the iCarol family!

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iCarol to attend the 2-1-1 Leadership Summit and United Way Community Leaders Conference

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I’m excited to be attending the upcoming United Way CEO 2-1-1 Summit and Community Leadership Conferences next week in Orlando! Of the many big ideas and opportunities we can advance collectively, some of my favorites are those that contribute to 2-1-1’s operating as a coordinated national network, and that increase our relevance in key areas like social determinants of health. I’m looking forward to formal presentations and “hallway talks” about:

  • Deeper engagements with medical and behavioral health entities
  • Technology standards to harmonize the distribution of social and human services data to trusted partners
  • Coordination of the National Texting Platform
  • Greater use of “syndromic survellience” (love that term) to alert our leaders to emerging crises and issues

If these topics are of interest to you too, please let’s make sure we connect in a session or during a break to explore how we can advance 2-1-1’s overall, and your 2-1-1 network in particular, in the near term.

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Join us for the iCarol User Group Summit in Tampa

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Following the success and positive feedback we received after last year’s iCarol Summit, we’d like to announce that on May 21st, the day before this year’s AIRS Conference officially kicks off in Tampa, Florida, our AIRS certified team members will again hold a User Group Summit at the same venue as the conference. Our Summit is an all-day event that includes training and informational sessions along with our traditional User Group session. While we do ask that you register to attend this even, there is no cost to participate.

This year we’re excited to cover the fundamentals for your I&R service, while also diving into topics we know are of increasing importance in your field. We’ll feature two main sessions to address both of these areas. Our first session of the day will focus on managing your resource database and the important basic tools such as editing, field visibility, filtering, managing regions, custom fields, verifying your records for accuracy, and more.

After a break for lunch (there are plenty of great choices for you to explore close to the conference venue) we’ll continue on learning about the growing need for services to participate in continuums of care within communities. Human service agencies can’t afford to operate in silos — they need to work together, communicate with one another, and share client information to ensure clients are engaging in the full spectrum of available services and that all providers are aware of their status and progress. Community organizations striving for this model often practice a “no wrong door” policy so that regardless of where a help-seeker begins their treatment journey, they’ll be able to smoothly enter the systems of care rather than getting turned around, improving their chances of success and greatly reducing the frustration or discouragement that they may encounter otherwise. In this session we’ll discuss potential ways your agency can become a leader in these care networks within your community using some unique strategies and iCarol tools.

Finally, we’ll end our day with a traditional User Group session to which all are invited, regardless if you registered and attended earlier sessions in the day. This is a chance to learn more about iCarol for those who may be considering use of our solution, and to hear more about our strategy, planned new features and enhancements in our product “roadmap.” Of course we’ll offer time for questions, comments, and discussion of challenges and priorities.

We’re working hard on prepping everything for our Summit as well as other fun and exciting activities at this year’s AIRS Conference. Don’t miss this chance to connect with us — our full agenda and other details are available by following the link below.

Learn More and Register

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Celebrating 2-1-1 Day

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

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

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

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

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