CW: This blog post discusses stalking, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM), and though millions of men and women are stalked every year
in the United States, the crime of stalking is often misunderstood, minimized and/or ignored.
What is “stalking?”
Stalking is a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that causes fear. Many stalking victims experience being followed, approached and/or threatened — including through technology. Stalking is a terrifying and psychologically harmful crime in its own right as well as a predictor of serious violence.
Facts about stalking*
- In 85% of cases where an intimate partner attempted to murder their partner, there was stalking in the year prior to the attack.
- Of the millions of men and women stalked every year in the United States, over half report being stalked before the age of 25 and over 15% report it first happened before the age of 18.
- Stalking often predicts and/or co-occurs with sexual and intimate partner violence. Stalkers may threaten sexual assault, convince someone else to commit assault and/or actually assault their victims.
- Nearly 1 in 3 women who were stalked by an intimate partner were also sexually assaulted by that partner.
- Stalking tactics might include: approaching a person or showing up in places when the person didn’t want them to be there; making unwanted telephone calls; leaving unwanted messages (text or voice); watching or following someone from a distance, or spying on someone with a listening device, camera, or GPS.
What is the impact on stalking victims?*
- 46% of stalking victims fear not knowing what will happen next.
- 29% of stalking victims fear the stalking will never stop.
- 1 in 8 employed stalking victims lose time from work as a result
of their victimization and more than half lose 5 days of work or more.
- 1 in 7 stalking victims move as a result of their victimization.
- Stalking victims suffer much higher rates of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and social dysfunction than people in the general population.
How you can help
Helpline staff and volunteers can do a number of things to help people who reach you and talk about being stalked:
- Provide validation and empathy.
- Don’t minimize behaviors that are causing the person concern (e.g. “I wouldn’t worry.” “That doesn’t sound harmful.” “They’re only text messages.”)
- Encourage the person to keep keep detailed documentation on stalking incidents and behavior. More information and a template can be found here.
- Use Stalking Harassment and Risk Profile (SHARP) Risk Assessments at your organization. More information and a template can be found here.
- Empower and help the person develop a safety plan that is flexible, comprehensive, and contextual. More information can be found in this guide for advocates.
- If your organization does not provide direct services to assist with the issue, provide helpful resources such as a local domestic/intimate partner violence helpline, sexual assault helpline, legal resources, law enforcement, etc.
We all have a role to play in identifying stalking and supporting victims and survivors. We encourage you to learn more from the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center at www.stalkingawareness.org.
*Source: Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC)
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.
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.
Even with increased awareness and understanding about mental health and mental illness, mental health care, particularly psychiatric care, can still be difficult to access. This often leaves Primary Care Physicians (PCPs), nurses, and other healthcare workers on the frontlines of mental health care in the United States.
However, in Utah PCPs can access specialized psychiatric consultations through the Consultation Access Link Line to Utah Psychiatry (CALL-UP) Program. This legislative funded program is designed to address the limited number of psychiatric services in Utah and improve access to them, and serves patients at no cost to providers or patients in the state of Utah.
iCarol is proud to play a role in the service delivery of CALL-UP, through CALL-UP’s use of iCarol for psychiatrist on-call shift sign up, CALL-UP program documentation to maintain state funding, and through iCarol’s Public Web Forms.
Here’s how iCarol fits into the service delivery workflow of the CALL-UP program in Utah:
- The on-call service for psychiatry consultation is available Monday through Friday from 12:00pm to 4:30 pm. Participating psychiatrists are invited by the CALL-UP program administrators to sign into the iCarol system to sign up for shifts where they will be on-call for consultations.
- Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) are instructed to contact the CALL-UP program to request a consultation. If the PCP calls in, CALL-UP staff collect basic demographic, needs, and other important data from the PCP in order to comply with state funding requirements, which is input by the phone specialist into iCarol, using an iCarol Contact Form. Then, they can forward the call to the on-call psychiatrist for the consultation to occur.
- PCPs can also request a consultation online, using an iCarol Public Web Form. The form has a built-in screening element that first ensures the requestor is a physician, as this is a requirement for program access. If they are not a physician, a prompt instructs them to please contact their doctor.
- If the requestor is a PCP then they continue to use the form to provide the information needed to obtain a consultation, including the demographic and other information required to maintain state funding.
- Once the Public Web Form is received by CALL-UP staff, they have the information they need to contact the PCP requesting consultation, and connect them with the on-call psychiatrist. Because the iCarol Web Form is simply a publicly available iCarol Contact Form, they already have the data they need, automatically submitted to iCarol with the form, to meet their reporting requirements.
For more information about Utah’s CALL-UP Program, visit https://uofuhealth.org/call-up.
Want to learn more about Public Web Forms and talk through how they might be used for your program or partnership?
Email Us Schedule a Meeting
Data shows that when specialists respond to mental health crises, everyone is safer and outcomes are better. That’s why communities everywhere are investing in crisis intervention teams as an alternative to 9-1-1 and law enforcement in response to crisis, suicide ideation, homelessness, substance abuse, and more.
One way iCarol organizations are improving their workflows around Mobile Crisis Dispatch is by using Public Web Forms.
Our Public Web Forms are essentially a public-facing version of the same forms our customers use internally in the iCarol web application to log their contacts with clients, collect data, and provide resource and referral information. When placed on a website, these forms can be used for purposes such as intake and eligibility screening or service requests. Once a form is submitted by the web visitor, it arrives in the iCarol system as a completed Contact Form where it can be dispositioned as appropriate by contact center staff, and work with other elements of iCarol to take their purpose even further.
One example of how our customers use Public Web Forms is for Mobile Crisis Team dispatch. In a traditional workflow, someone in need of Mobile Crisis might call the contact center, and a specialist will process their request and complete an intake form over the phone, print it, and fax it to a team who will respond in person. In some centers using disparate systems for different departments, they may even encounter processes where paper or electronic forms are passed between departments requiring specialist to do manual data entry for their data collection.
A Crisis Team Dispatch workflow using a Public Web Form may look something like this:
- A crisis services provider has a web page outlining their Mobile Crisis offerings, and places the link to a request form on the web page.
- The person requesting response fills out the form, configured by the provider, requesting services and providing information about the situation.
- If certain criteria must be met in order to request services via form, a pre-screening element can be built in which directs the person to call instead and speak to a specialist live, if they don’t meet the eligibility requirements to submit a form online.
- Submitted forms arrive in the iCarol system and certain staff are notified of submission by email.
- The specialist opens the form, contacts the requestor if necessary to fill in additional information, and explain to the requestor what will happen next.
- The form is shared with the team providing the direct Mobile Crisis response. In iCarol, forms can sent in many ways: password protected and emailed within the system, sent to a secure Provider Portal for responders to access, transmitted electronically to another software system, are just a few examples.
- The crisis team receives the necessary information, and responds.
- The crisis team can then disposition the visit according to their protocols, and can add additional data to the form electronically to close the loop and provide the contact center with outcome data and more.
This is just one way Public Web Forms are being used, and we look forward to bringing you more of these stories in the coming days.
Want to learn more about Public Web Forms and talk through how they might be used for your program or partnership?
Email Us Schedule a Meeting
Returning to school and beginning a new academic year can cause feelings of anxiety and uncertainty in any circumstances, but the impact of COVID-19 makes the event extra stressful on students, parents, and educators alike.
Each year, Mental Health America releases a back to school toolkit aimed at helping people start the new school year right with healthy habits and an awareness of stress and mental health. MHA focuses on the need to prioritize mental health and emotional well-being so that all students can thrive both in and out of the school setting.
The 2021 Toolkit is titled Facing Fears, Supporting Students and contains hands-on materials such as:
- Fact sheets for parents and teachers
- Fact sheets for children and teens
- Key messages and statistics
- Sample articles and social media posts
- and more!
The 2021 Mental Health America Back to School Toolkit is available now on the Mental Health America website.
Download the Toolkit
iCarol is very proud and excited to be an exhibitor at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) virtual conference and tradeshow July 19-22.
This will be iCarol’s third year in attendance at n4a, and second year exhibiting virtually. We are excited to once again celebrate the work of Area Agencies on Aging and Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) and continue to be amazed at how these organizations have responded and provided continuity of services amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. Older adults and those with health conditions are particularly vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, but maintaining social connections and other services under social distance has been critical to these individuals. These organizations have stepped up in amazing ways to provide consistency and reassurance.
At our virtual n4a booth we’ll have information to share about how iCarol empowers ADRCs, AAAs, and Senior Information Lines, and other services for older adults, individuals with disabilities, and their caregivers to:
- Provide social connection and ease loneliness through Telephone Reassurance Programs
- Collaborate with Community-Based Organizations to address Social Determinants of Health
- Participate in Health/Community Information Exchanges and No Wrong Door initiatives
- Provide comprehensive I&R, Closed-Loop referral and collect outcome data
- Document information included on reimbursement requests
- Meet people on preferred communication channels
- Integrate with other software and systems
If you’re attending the conference, be sure to visit the iCarol virtual booth to learn more, download the resources we have available, and contact us with your questions!
Around the nation there are conversations happening about public safety as it pertains to emergency response where it involves situations of mental health crisis. Who are the appropriate entities to respond to 911 calls for someone in a mental health crisis?
Legislation has been introduced in New York State, Daniel’s Law, that would establish both state and regional mental health response councils which would permit mental health professionals to respond to mental health and substance abuse emergencies.
This legislation is modeled after a program in Eugene, Oregon, CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets), developed in 1989, that takes an innovative, community-based public safety approach to provide mental health first response for crises involving mental illness, homelessness, and addiction.
We believe 211s and Crisis Lines are an integral part of this conversation.
We are planning to host a conversation on this topic and would like to hear from you regarding what actions your organizations are currently taking and what kind of additional support iCarol could provide to assist you in responding to 911 calls in these situations.
email us if you are interested in sharing your ideas or plans related to this topic, or if you are simply interested in participating in these conversations.
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 both due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and while working 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!
The end of the year is fast approaching, and it’s been unlike any year before. We know how busy you are every day of the year, especially this year, but it’s time to take a moment and think about setting yourself up for success for the year ahead with some iCarol housekeeping. 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 a new year.
Review Draft Contact Forms
It’s a good idea to designate a user with appropriate permissions to review all Contact Forms still in DRAFT status 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 important 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, open our Help Center and 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. Or, as we’ve seen a lot this year, you need to collect new data in response to a new contract, or community response to an event or disaster. It helps to keep your forms tidy, and reduces time spent by your volunteers, if any 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, open our Help Center and 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, too. 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, open our Help Center and 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, open the iCarol Help Center and read this related help article.
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 power loss or periodic disconnect of you 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 version of your Contact Records for your users to access in case your organization ever experiences problems with power loss or loss of 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 and use to document interactions during the power loss, 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 in instances of internet outage. 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.