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Caring for our customers and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic

image of coronavirus

We have been closely watching the developments around the novel Coronavirus/COVID-19 Pandemic. In these and other difficult times, our primary focus always turns to our customers and the people and communities they serve, as well as the health and well-being of our employees.

Many of our customers are playing a direct and active role in the response to COVID-19 by providing emotional support, reassurance, and reliable information and referral, and working directly with their state/provincial and local governments to collect data and rapidly disseminate new information of service to the public. We want to do all we can to support them in their efforts, and so we have taken the following steps:

  • Offer 30 days of free Contact Record or Resource Database sharing tools in iCarol, to help our customers with their collaborations, continuity of operations, or coordinated data collection and reporting.
  • Apply an ad hoc Taxonomy update to iCarol that includes new terms related to COVID-19.
  • Provide prompt response to all customer requests related to COVID-19, such as assistance with editing Contact Forms, adding new tools, or making system settings changes.
  • Monitor system performance and volume, and add additional resources within our Microsoft Azure infrastructure to scale and increase capacity as necessary.
  • Listen and engage with key industry organizations to be sure we are prepared for and responsive to our customers’ needs as the situation continues to evolve.

We understand that many of our customers are transitioning their volunteers and staff to a remote work model to maintain continuity of operations while reducing human presence within the contact center. For many, this model is unfamiliar and one sometimes met with apprehension. Being a web-based solution, iCarol provides many tools and features that can make this transition easier. The iCarol functionality needed to carry out their work can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, while managers can still exercise supervision and ultimate control over volunteer/staff permissions and system access. On our blog, we will share more detailed tips and guidance on how our customers can use iCarol remotely, which will help keep their people and communities safer.

Of course, the safety of members of the iCarol family, customers and employees alike, is at the forefront of our minds. iCarol has activated our own business continuity plan, which specifically calls out provisions in the case of a pandemic. Most of the iCarol team already works remotely, and nearly all of our interaction with customers is through email, live chat, online meetings, or phone calls, which limits the risk of exposing ourselves or our customers to the spread of the virus. Our small number of team members who usually work in an office setting have been working from home and will continue to do so until it is safe to return to the office. There has also been significant cross-training between the iCarol and CityView technology/development teams which expands the amount of human resources available to quickly respond to technology or infrastructure needs.

Our parent company, Harris Computer Systems, has provided excellent leadership throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, and feels that we must all do our part as responsible citizens to enhance the safety of our employees and the communities in which we live and work. Any in-person internal meetings are being reconsidered and either postponed or converted to virtual events, and all business travel is being evaluated and cancelled or postponed as needed. Harris Computer encourages all its employees to follow the guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

Our customers always display an unwavering commitment to their communities, and they are courageously upholding these values even in the midst of these unprecedented events. We are inspired by their actions, and honored to serve them however we can. Should you have any questions on how iCarol can assist or support your organization in response to COVID-19, please contact us.

The following iCarol resources may be helpful to you as you research, plan, and act during an emergency:

ata Exporting, Sharing, and Integrations Options in iCarol

Data Exporting, Sharing, and Integrations Options in iCarol
View
iCarol eBook Do More Together A Guide to Collaborations

Do More Together: A Guide to Collaborations
Download
Using iCarol During a Disaster or Emergency

Using iCarol During a Disaster or Emergency
View
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Helplines and Contact Centers Preparing for Coronavirus Response

image of coronavirus

Like many of you, we are closely watching developments related to novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, while cases emerge around the world and concerns about the virus intensify.

We recognize that many of our customer organizations have a critical role to play when incidents like these arise. Because of their earned reputations as trustworthy sources of information and support, local helplines and contact centers are often relied upon to engage with their communities and provide reassurance, emotional support, reliable information, and referrals to resources.

Based on our experiences working with our customers during past natural and manmade disasters, you may consider some of the following actions for your organization:

  • Keep relevant, accurate information readily available to give out to your clients as needed. The best sources of information at this time are:
  • Review your own internal disaster/emergency incident policies and procedures to maintain continuity of operations.
  • Familiarize yourself with your local and state agencies that may provide direct services and assistance, such as local Departments of Health and Human Services, and ensure that referral database information is up-to-date for these agencies.
  • Network with your contacts at the aforementioned agencies to remind them of the services you provide and request that your organization be kept abreast of any developments or actions they plan to take, so you can assist in their efforts to inform the public.
  • Consider what data collection elements should be added to your iCarol Contact Form so that any contacts about Coronavirus can be tracked and documented in case you are asked to report on this information.
  • Enable client self-service by including information about your agency’s role, as well as links to official sources of information, on your organization’s website and social media presence.
  • Direct callers to the right extension or audio message containing Coronavirus information by setting up an option in your IVR/Phone tree within your phone system.

iCarol is here to help you with any initiatives you might become engaged in related to Coronavirus, so that you can respond to your community’s needs quickly and efficiently. Options like:

  • Sharing your database of resource information with partner
  • Sharing Contact Forms within your network
  • Providing after-hours or collaborative Call/Chat/SMS response or reporting
and many other partnership options and integrations are readily available.

As community service, iCarol can turn on Contact Record and Resource Database sharing for up to 30 days during a qualified event for no additional cost.

Potential use cases for these kinds of partnerships are:

  • Several contact centers within a state or region need to share a single Resource Database, or view one another’s databases, so they can provide seamless referrals regardless of where in the network the client contacting them is located.
  • Collaborators share Contact Forms so they can all collect consistent data related to the disaster or event, and complete consolidated reporting.
  • When one center must shutdown services at their location and transfer their calls to a partner, their partner can access their Contact Form and Resource Database, to be sure they can fully function as that closed center’s backup until the center can reopen and resume services to their community.

The following iCarol resources may be helpful to you as you research and plan partnerships during an emergency:

ata Exporting, Sharing, and Integrations Options in iCarol

Data Exporting, Sharing, and Integrations Options in iCarol
View
iCarol eBook Do More Together A Guide to Collaborations

Do More Together: A Guide to Collaborations
Download
Using iCarol During a Disaster or Emergency

Using iCarol During a Disaster or Emergency
View

We want to take this opportunity to thank our customers for all their current and future efforts in responding to Coronavirus/ COVID-19. Your dedication to the health and wellbeing of your communities is remarkable and does not go unnoticed by us. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the iCarol Team should you have questions about using your iCarol system to respond to this incident, or need help enabling partnerships and integrations, and we will be happy to assist you.

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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

When it comes to teens dating, many parents and guardians worry about things like their teen’s emotions or heartbreak, staying out too late, losing focus and falling behind at school, sexual activity, STDs, or teen pregnancy. And while all of those are worthy of concern for a caring parent, many do not stop to consider another big issue facing teens: Teen Dating Violence.

According to information provided by loveisrespect.org, a survey found that 81% of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue. And though 82% of parents feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse, a majority of parents (58%) could not correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse.

This is troubling considering the problem of abusive romantic relationships between teens problem is a prevalent issue.

  • 1 in 3 high school students experience physical or sexual violence, or both, by someone they are dating
  • 10% of adolescents report being the victim of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner during the previous year
  • Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national (US) average
  • Among female victims of intimate partner violence, 94% of those age 16-19 and 70% of those age 20-24 were victimized by a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18

To learn more about Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, visit: teendvmonth.org/
Break The Cycle
CDC – Preventing Teen Dating Violence

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Join us for Bell Let’s Talk Day

Bell Let's Talk

Wednesday January 29th is a big day for Canadian mental health initiatives: It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day!

This annual event draws attention to the topic of mental health, particularly the stigma attached to mental illness that prevents many from seeking help. The idea is that if we all talk more openly about mental health and are open to conversations about it, it will lessen the shame attached to mental illness. Bell also champions access to care, workplace mental health, and research.

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, people are encouraged to take to social media and discuss the topics of mental health and mental illness. Certain social media activities, such as watching the official Bell Let’s Talk video, using their special profile photo frame in Facebook, or using their special Snapchat filter, will help raise funds for organizations that address Bell Let’s Talk’s initiatives. Bell donates 5¢ to mental health initiatives and programs across Canada (including many services that are part of the iCarol family!). Bell customers can also participate by texting or making calls. Find out more about how to take part.

Bell Let’s Talk has had a profound impact across Canada. Since the campaign began in 2011 there have been over 1 billion interactions around Bell Let’s Talk, with over $100 million donated to mental health initiatives. And 86% of Canadians say they are more aware of mental health issues since Bell Let’s Talk launched.

To learn more about Bell Let’s Talk, check out their website and toolkit that contains everything you need to participate. We hope you’ll follow us on Twitter and Facebook, to join us in raising funds and awareness so we can remove the stigma from the conversation about mental health!

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Happy New Year from iCarol

happy new year 2020 iCarol year in review

As another year closes and a new one begins, we naturally reflect on the accomplishments, celebrations, and important moments of 2019 while anticipating all that lies ahead. Personally, I consider the past year to be one full of progress, both in the industries we serve and here at iCarol.

All year we engage with our customers at industry conferences, forums, and in other capacities so we can be intimately aware of the topics currently affecting them and others on the horizon. This helps us to respond in kind to meet these needs with new, innovative solutions from iCarol. This year was no exception – we have seen movement across all of the industries we serve that open opportunities for our customers that we are actively exploring ways to support using iCarol software.

In the world of Information and Referral, the topics of Social Determinants of Health, Closed-loop referral, and further encouragement to engage in partnerships and collaboration all show promise for many exciting opportunities for our customers. Those working to address sexual and intimate partner violence continue to advocate for education, awareness, prevention, improved response, and justice for all those who experienced a crime. We’re excited to see their advocacy result in new legislation across several states that extend statutes of limitations for crimes, signaling better recognition of the complexities and time involved for survivors to report, and improved allocation of resources towards testing material from forensic exams, improving the chances that survivors will receive justice. In December, the United States Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted to establish a three-digit number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the next 18 months. This is long sought after acknowledgement that mental health emergencies deserve the same attention and response as the types of emergencies reported to 9-1-1, something suicide prevention advocates have long been pressing for as a way to prevent suicide. Finally, concerns about consent for contact and data privacy continue to loom large across the world. Previous years have given us CASL in Canada and GDPR in the EU, both sweeping and comprehensive sets of regulations. Now we are beginning to see individual states and provinces taking on the task of writing their own legislation to protect consumers from having their data harvested and sold without their knowledge and consent, most notably in California’s Consumer Protection Act. We are doing all we can, and relying on our resources available through Harris Computer, to make sure that we are in full compliance with such laws, and that our customers are aware of how these laws may impact them directly.

These are just a few examples of developments impacting our customers in the year ahead. Of course we will look for any ways iCarol can support our customers through these changes, and help them carry out their life saving work. Look for more from us on our blog and webinars for updates on how we are addressing these topics.

The industries we serve aren’t the only ones experiencing progress – iCarol, too, went through positive changes in 2019. In December we moved to a new infrastructure on which the iCarol web application runs – Microsoft Azure. The migration to this new platform was the culmination of a year’s worth of planning and effort, and was not without its challenges and setbacks, but we are delighted to now be fully operational in the new environment and excited for all it means for our customers. Microsoft Azure will help us provide the most up-to-date, technologically advanced platform available. We can scale and ramp up performance as needed to meet increases in system use, whether it be due to an event, disaster, or the normal periodic demands on the system that occur for monthly exports and reporting. We are delighted not just by the way this move allows us to be more responsive to system demands, but knowing that Azure offers built-in security services that include unparalleled security intelligence. We are very excited to track data over time to show how this new infrastructure improves performance and stability, and supports the future growth in iCarol’s customer base.

I must acknowledge and express deep gratitude for the great support and patience we received from our customers during this transition and in the months prior. Our customers exercised immense trust and patience with us as we developed the plan to make this sweeping change to our infrastructure. Their user testing of the new environment, feedback, and communication with us greatly contributed to the success of this project. I cannot say enough wonderful things about our customers as essential partners with us on this journey.

There is much more to share about what was accomplished in the year behind us, and what’s on our agenda for the year ahead. Later this month we will host a “State of iCarol” webinar for our customers reviewing 2019 progress and our plans for 2020. You can also look to our blogs and email updates, and for customers, our Admin Dashboard, for more exciting information as it develops.

So, as this new year begins, I wish to thank everyone who makes it their life’s work to help others, most especially our customers, on behalf of the entire iCarol Team. Every day we see the positive impact you have on individuals and communities as a whole, and we could not be more honored to play a small part in the amazing work you do. The team at iCarol is excited to see what 2020 holds and hope for continued progress towards a safer, happier, and healthier society thanks to the work you do.

Sincerely,

Rachel Wentink
Vice President, Operations







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7 helpline interactions you’ll have on Christmas (or any major holiday)

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.”

Surprise!

    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.

Thank you

    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!

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National Council on Problem Gambling invites proposals for presentations at their 34th National Conference

From July 22-25, 2020, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) will hold their 34th National Conference on Gambling Addiction and Responsible Gambling in Washington, D.C.

NCPG is currently accepting proposals for presentations to be offered at the 2020 conference. They encourage submissions on the following topics:

  • Promising and proven advances in treatment including brief interventions, pharmaceutical trials, alternative therapies, co-occurring disorders, outcome studies, and research to practice;
  • Professional and clinical ethics in treatment, research, and prevention;
  • Innovative and novel prevention programs and models that demonstrate results across different domains and populations;
  • Recovery-oriented systems of care, self-help, relapse prevention, and recovery supports;
  • Developments in responsible gambling policy, programs, legislation, and regulation;
  • Data and measurements for responsible gambling program efficiency;
  • Re-framing the conversation, positive play and beyond;
  • Outreach, concerns, and research for special populations such as seniors, youth and racial/ethnic groups;
  • And more!

The deadline to submit presentations is January 17, 2020.

Learn More and Submit Your Presentation

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CALCASA accepting proposals for presentations/workshops at NSAC 2020

The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) will host the 2020 National Sexual Assault Conference September 2-4 in Anaheim, California. This conference welcomes thousands of people, all invested in ending sexual violence. The NSAC Conference is known for providing opportunities to share information and resources, advance learning, develop new skills, and increase the capacity to assert the dignity of all people. NSAC also believes in building strong partnerships and strategies that strengthen the work to end sexual violence.

CALCASA has opened the process for accepting proposals for workshops and presentations for the 2020 conference. For Request for Proposal criteria and details, including available tracks and rules for submission, check out the information below!

Proposal Guide – English
Guía de Propuestas en Español
Submit Your Proposal

All proposals must be submitted online by DECEMBER 23, 2019 11:59 pm PST. For questions about proposals and NSAC, please visit http://www.nationalsexualassaultconference.org/proposals/

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Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of Remembrance, recognized each year on November 20th, honors the memory of transgender people lost to fatal violence and homicide. According to data provided by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), at least 22 transgender people in the US were killed in acts of violence thus far in 2019. Worldwide, hundreds were killed. HRC notes that this is an estimation likely lower than the actual number of lives lost, because of the numerous difficulties involved in tracking these crimes. Reasons include the fact that crimes against transgender people are often underreported and people can be misgendered by the media, law enforcement, or even their own families when these crimes are reported.

Often times these tragedies can be directly linked back to anti-trans prejudice. And, even in cases where this direct connection cannot be made, it is often clear that the victim’s transgender identity in some way made them more at risk of being a victim of crime. For example, transgender people are much more likely to become homeless than people who are not transgender, and homelessness puts a person at a much higher risk of becoming a victim of a violent crime.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a time to pause and honor each person, tell their story, and remember them. But scholar Sarah Lamble notes in Retelling Racialized Violence, Remaking White Innocence: The Politics of Interlocking Oppressions in Transgender Day of Remembrance:

None of us are innocent. We must envision practices of remembrance that situate our own positions within structures of power that authorize violence in the first place. Our task is to move from sympathy to responsibility, from complicity to reflexivity, from witnessing to action. It is not enough to simply honor the memory of the dead — we must transform the practices of the living.
It’s important to have discussions about violence against transgender people and talk about how we might be complicit in the circumstances of their deaths. How can we change that? What can we do to bring this number down to the only statistic that is acceptable — zero. Greater education about trans people and the issues they face is one important factor. Visibility and representation is another. As a society we can look at what programs and services, or legislation, can be enacted to better serve and protect transgender individuals. Even better, how do we build a more inclusive society where trans people are recognized as human beings worthy of equality and no longer seen as “other?” It’s only when all that happens that we may see anti-trans prejudice begin to decline, and violence against transgender people along with it.

You can read more about Transgender Day of Remembrance, find a local event or candlelight vigil, gather resources on trans issues, and learn what action you can take from the following places:

Celebrating Information and Referral Day

Beginning in 2011, when the United States Senate first recognized Information and Referral Services Day, November 16th was designated to raise public awareness and recognize the critical importance of the I&R field.

Every day thousands of people find the help they need quickly, conveniently and free of charge because of Information and Referral (I&R) services. I&R services come in all shapes and sizes, from crisis lines that provide their local community with a core set of human service referrals, to larger scale 2-1-1 centers providing comprehensive Information and Referral services to entire states or provinces covering many different topics and types of services.

Information and Referral is the art, science and practice of bringing people and services together and is an integral component of the health and human services sector. People in search of critical services such as shelter, financial assistance, food, jobs, or mental health and substance abuse support often do not know where to begin to get help, or they get overwhelmed trying to find what they need. I&R services recognize that when people in need are more easily connected to the services that will help them, thanks to knowledgeable I&R professionals, it reduces frustration and ensures that people reach the proper services quickly and efficiently.

The people who work these lines are consummate professionals who are often times like living, breathing encyclopedias; providing answers to questions ranging from, “Where can I get a free meal for my family” to “There’s a horse running loose in my neighborhood, who do I call?” We at iCarol are really honored to have so many Information and Referral services all across the world use our software to help provide these services to people who reach them via phone, chat, text, or through intake and screening forms or resource searches on their websites.

If you’d like to learn more about what iCarol does to support efficient referral management, check out this page of our website that goes over some of those features.

Happy I & R Day, everyone, and kudos on the awesome work you do connecting people with the services they need, and addressing the social determinants of health in your communities!

Learn more about Information and Referral:

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