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Registration Open for Annual iCarol User Group Summit

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On Sunday, June 3 in Dallas, Texas, members of our team will hold our annual iCarol User Group Summit. This Summit happens each year the day before the AIRS Conference sessions begin, and throughout the day we hold trainings on iCarol functionality of particular interest to the Information and Referral industry. We end our day with a traditional User Group session to discuss the latest enhancements to the software and the planned developments ahead. We also welcome your input and suggestions during this user group session, so that we can continue to evaluate and prioritize the enhancements currently on our development schedule.

If you’ll be at the AIRS conference this year, we hope you’ll join us on Sunday for this free event. Click the button below to learn more about the User Group Summit and register to be there!

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The next chapter in the iCarol story

We’re excited to announce that iCarol is now a part of Harris Computer Systems — a software company focused on providing long term software solutions to local government, utilities, school districts, healthcare and other public sector clients. iCarol will be run as its own entity within the CityView portfolio of solutions.

More than 14 years ago, iCarol began with a simple idea that by introducing technology that was designed specifically for the unique needs of a not-for-profit helpline, the managers could improve the service delivery, the quality of the people, and ultimately the lives of help seekers. Founders Neil and Jackie McKechnie combined their mutual experiences in two very different worlds – volunteering at a Distress Centre and careers in the high tech industry – and built a solution that would go on to be used by hundreds of organizations and over 76,000 users worldwide. We’re very proud of our origin story and honored every day to serve the caring and selfless people who work at those organizations.

Just as we aim to empower our clients, joining Harris Computer Systems empowers our team and the iCarol solution to reach new heights. We feel that the deep market knowledge and not-for-profit industry experience at the iCarol level, combined with the infrastructure, guidance and business expertise of Harris, is a winning combination.

The iCarol story only gets more exciting from here, and we’re looking forward to all the new possibilities ahead. Becoming a part of Harris Computer Systems is the latest positive step for the growth of iCarol, and for the benefit of our expanding client base.

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iCarol Webinar: Crafting Effective Crisis Center Messaging and Engaging with the Media

We’ve all been there — you’re minding your own business, running your suicide prevention center and focusing on your clients and staff, when suddenly you’re asked to talk to a journalist for a story about your organization, or comment on the topic of suicide prevention for an article. Does the very idea of this cause you to break out into a cold sweat? If it does, you’re certainly not alone!

If you feel uncomfortable or unprepared when it comes time to communicate effectively and succinctly with the media or the public, then I hope you’ll join us for our next webinar on Wednesday, April 4th at 2pm EST. We’ll be joined by Chris Maxwell, Communications Coordinator for the American Association of Suicidology, for a webinar on the topic of crafting effective messaging for your crisis center. This webinar is designed to help crisis center directors, program managers, and others with the responsibility of communication on behalf of your organization, to communicate effectively about your services, needs, and the topic of suicide.

About Our Presenter:

    Chris Maxwell
    Communications Coordinator
    American Association of Suicidology

    Chris is the Communications Coordinator for the American Association of Suicidology. He has worked in the suicide prevention and mental health field for the past nine years, first as a volunteer crisis counselor and then later as a statewide suicide prevention grant administrator. In a previous position with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, he worked closely with crisis centers across the country to connect and collaborate. Chris is passionate about understanding suicide, harnessing the capability of social media to prevent it, and strives to advocate for the voices of those with lived experience. He is a production team member of the #SPSM (Suicide Prevention and Social Media) community. Chris is an advisory board member for OurDataHelps.org, which allows people to donate their social media data to be used for mental health research and allow clinicians to create treatment tools. Follow Chris on twitter @chrsmxwll.

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Helplines Partnership Holds Annual Conference

Helplines Partnership (HLP) is an important membership body for organizations that provide helpline services in the UK and around the world. They facilitate high quality service delivery to callers by providing training, a Helplines Quality Standard, and tailored support. HLP also raises the profile of the helpline sector by representing their members’ interests and influencing the social policy agenda. For over 25 years, Helplines Partnership has supported its members to deliver a quality service to vulnerable people when they need help the most.

HLP held their Annual Conference on November 30, 2017. The Conference this year was themed around “Life’s Journey” and held in London. It provided an opportunity for helpline professionals to network with one another, find inspiration and rejuvenate purpose and energy from the speakers and seminars presented. The conference also served as the place setting for Helpline Partnership’s Annual General Meeting, and Awards Ceremony recognizing achievements of member helplines in several categories. More than 120 people attended the conference this year, representing 40-50 helplines from HLP’s membership.

Following a welcome by Chair Sophie Andrews, the day began with its first ever International Member Showcase featuring Wida Yalaqi, founder of Afghanistan Capacity Development and Educational Organization (ACDEO). ACDEO is a helpline in Afghanistan, which works to improve the well-being of all Afghans by developing social welfare and promoting a better quality of life. Despite the great work done for women’s empowerment in Afghanistan, the vast majority of the Afghan population remain unaware of the rights afforded to women within the Afghan constitution. This prompted Wida, (an Afghan native who received her higher education in the UK before moving back to Afghanistan in 2005), to found the organization. They offer counseling, mental health support, advice on self-protection, consultation with a religious scholar if desired, and referrals to ground-based service providers. In the few years since its 2013 inception, ACDEO has helped more than 56,000 families with legal advice and counseling, and connected more than 2,000 callers with legal, protection and health services. Among their key accomplishments is the improvement of community perceptions of women’s rights.

For many attendees, the international showcase proved to be one of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring parts of the day. Hearing about the unique challenges faced by this helpline’s staff, and the high quality of services delivered by them in the face of some seemingly insurmountable odds was admirable. In addition to the typical challenges all helplines face, ACDEO must overcome obstacles like making connections with people, particularly women, who live in extremely remote and rural provinces. They are often illiterate and completely cut off from resources the rest of us take for granted, such as Internet access. Because their work is considered controversial within the framework of local culture, the staff face threats to their safety and must take many precautions just to carry out their work each day, navigating bomb threats and evacuations. Taking all this into account, it’s clear to see just how courageous and committed these helpline staff are in carrying out their work to improve the lives of Afghans.

With the conclusion of the international showcase, it was time to move to the seminars. Debbie Sadler spoke on behalf of Unlock, a national charity that provides a voice and support for people with convictions who are facing stigma and obstacles because of their criminal record, often long after they have served their sentence. Debbie spoke about the evolving ways in which clients wish to reach them, often dependent upon demographics. This discussion gave a chance for members to reflect on how much they are also seeing demands for alternative channels, which helps to inform Helplines Partnership of the training needs of their members as well.

The second seminar was presented by Emily Hodge of Coaching Emily. Emily is an ex-NHS and charity professional health psychology specialist and coach, and cancer survivor. She supports people moving forward from cancer and places a focus on gentle living and well-being. Emily’s seminar was particularly suited to the “Life’s Journey” theme of the conference. It was very helpful to attendees as far as the discussion of resilience and self-care needed to be effective helpline workers, given some of the vicarious trauma and personal toll that helping others can have on helpers and carers. Group exercises and discussion were a key part of Emily’s presentation.

Speaker Elizabeth Burton-Phillips MBE, who doubled as awards presenter, is the founder of DrugFam, an organization providing support to families of those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Elizabeth shared her personal journey as the parent of twin sons addicted to heroin, and the painful loss of one of her sons to the addiction, while the other is now in recovery. Elizabeth told her story, which many who have loved someone struggling with addiction, particularly parents, could identify with. As a secondary school teacher working in a nice community whose sons went to a private school, she never imagined drugs or addiction would be an issue. She spoke about the fact that addiction can touch any family, regardless of income, class, race, or other factors. As her sons’ substance use progressed, Elizabeth found herself making decisions out of love and wanting to provide her sons with comfort, but realized that in the end her actions were not what was truly best for her sons and actually enabled them instead. Her book Mum, Can You Lend Me Twenty Quid? What drugs did to my family explores the impact that drugs have had on her family, and serves as a reminder to families battling addiction that they are not alone. She founded DrugFam in order to help families going through similar experiences, and her charity work earned her the award of Member Of The Most Excellent Order Of The British Empire.

Elizabeth also hosted the Helpline Awards ceremony where six charities received honors in six different categories. iCarol sponsored the award for Best Innovative Use of Technology. You can read more about that here!

Chrissy B aka Christoulla Boodram, television personality and mental health advocate, participated in the conference by speaking alongside several of the guests including Dr. Audrey Tang, resident Psychologist on her program. Chrissy B’s show is dedicated entirely to mental health and wellbeing and is the UK’s only TV show with this as its sole focus. Chrissy B and her guests lead the conference participants in her signature Mental Health Dance Challenge providing all conference goers with the chance to have a little fun while being reminded of the importance of good mental health. The show was recorded and aired on Sky 203 on Monday 23 January 2018. You can watch the show featuring the HLP conference below, or visit Chrissy B’s YouTube channel.

The day ended with a keynote by Claire Lomas MBE. Claire was working as a chiropractor and had reached the highest level in the equestrian sport of eventing when a tragic accident left her paralyzed from the chest down. The adjustment after this drastic and life-alerting event was obviously an immense challenge for Claire, and it was hard not to dwell on all she had lost. While there were many dark days, she managed to dig deep to find the strength and courage to completely rebuild her life with renewed goals and focus. Claire became headline news worldwide in 2012 when she walked the London Marathon in a pioneering robotic suit, which took a grueling 17 days and raised £210k for Spinal Research. She became the first owner of a robotic suit and used it when she had the honor of lighting the Paralympic cauldron in Trafalgar Square. In 2013 Claire completed a 400-mile hand-cycle around parts of England, visiting schools on the way to inspire students, and raising another £85k supporting the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation.

Claire is a woman who never stops reaching for the next achievement. Believing that there will soon be a cure for spinal paralysis, in 2014 and 2015 she organized a series of events that took the fundraising total to over £500k, securing her place as one of Britain’s most inspirational women. She completed the Great North Run in 2016, and last summer she became the first paralyzed female with a motorcycle racing license.

Though a split second altered the course of Claire’s life forever, she emerged from the darkness to find new and immeasurable ways to contribute to the world. Claire’s keynote address left the audience emotional and inspired.

As you can hopefully see from this recap, the day was considered a resounding success by organizers and attendees alike. Feedback included praise such as:

    “Very relevant and inspiring”
    “This is the best Conference I have attended”
    “Fantastic, funny and moving”

To learn more about Helplines Partnership membership and other information, you can visit them online, and follow them on social media:

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iCarol Webinar: Building a United Crisis Line Team in Times of Diverse Need

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Our next webinar, titled “Building a United Crisis Line Team in Times of Diverse Need,” will be held on Tuesday, February 6th at 2pm EST.

With the stress of crisis call content and increasing volume as well as an expanding spectrum of needs being addressed, it can be difficult to know how best to unify your team and provide them with ample support, supervision and training, while also addressing your own operations, adequate scheduling, and volunteer/staff development.

This webinar, led by Rebecca Stock and Johanna Louie of the Suicide Prevention Center at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, will guide crisis center managers and supervisors through addressing these challenges. Attendees of this webinar will learn about expanding the skillsets of their staff and volunteers so that a wide array of topics can be addressed by them on calls and chats, ensuring that the most vulnerable populations are well served. Our presenters will also take us through how to balance the management of day-to-day operations with the needs of the volunteer or staff crisis workers. We’ll also discuss how to pair data and manager expertise to plan for operational and staffing needs. The tools we discuss will accelerate crisis lines’ abilities to balance meeting the increasing demand of people in crisis while caring for a vulnerable team of crisis counselors.

Our Presenters:

Rebecca Stock joined Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services in 2007 as a Volunteer Suicide Prevention Counselor and since then has become a Supervisor and is now the Program Coordinator for the 24-Hour Crisis Line. As Program Coordinator, Rebecca provides direct supervision of the Shift Supervisors and Crisis Line Counselors and oversees the daily operations of the crisis line. A large part of Rebecca’s duties include interfacing with related community agencies and local colleges, attending meetings with the Department of Social Services, participating in various outreach events. Being part of the Suicide Crisis Line for over 10 years, Rebecca has been trained in ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) and plays a large role in providing training for new Volunteer Crisis Counselors. In January 2017, Rebecca completed her Masters in Counseling specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy. Rebecca has been touched by losing someone to suicide when in high school and has wanted to erase the stigma since then.

Johanna Louie started at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services as a Volunteer Crisis Line Counselor in 2013. Currently, she is the Online Crisis Services Program Coordinator and oversees the chat and text services. She is passionate about utilizing technology to break down barriers to mental health services. Johanna is data driven and utilizes her prior experience in consumer insights at The Walt Disney Company to leverage analytics in making operational decisions for the Crisis Line. Her experiences in crisis services also include involvement with the Emergency Shelter Program at Center for the Pacific Asian Families, the Mayor’s Crisis Response Team as well as The Trevor Project. She holds a Master of Science in Human Behavior from the University of Southern California and is currently pursuing her Master of Social Work from Columbia University.

We hope you can join us for this informative webinar. To find out more and register, click the button below.

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iCarol Webinar: The Changing Face of Initiating Active Interventions in the Online Space

Adding on new communications channels people can use to reach your helpline is a critical element of providing effective service to your community in the 21st century. But, while the addition of such contact methods is important, it brings with it a unique set of challenges that crisis centers must be ready to address. Online emotional support, particularly Live Chat, can be extremely anonymous. In fact, that’s part of the appeal for users — the ability to confide in someone without revealing one’s face, voice, and identity sets exactly the stage that many people prefer or need in order to truly open up and reach out for help. In instances where emergency rescue might be needed for a person in imminent danger, the same exciting technology that allows so many in need to access help in the way they prefer can create anxiety and headaches for crisis workers who want to help.

Join us for our next webinar where we’ll delve into the topic of active intervention in the online space, and how this aspect of crisis intervention continues to evolve.

    When: Thursday, January 25, 2018
    Time: 2:00pm Eastern

    Our Presenter:

    Beau Pinkham
    Director of Crisis Intervention Services
    The Crisis Center of Johnson County

    About Beau:

    Beau has been part of the crisis intervention/suicide prevention field since 2002, when he started volunteering at his local crisis line. Subsequent experience being a flood recovery outreach counselor after the devastation of 2008 and working with the homeless population after that led him to a staff position with The Crisis Center of Johnson County, where he currently directs crisis intervention and suicide prevention services. He is a current board member for Contact USA, an accrediting body for crisis centers across the United States, and is part of the American Association of Suicidology’s Strategic Media Response Task Force. He has been involved in panel discussions on the intersection of video games and suicide at SXSW and other conferences, and has presented on how tech trends have affected and will continue to affect crisis intervention services.

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iCarol Response to Spectre and Meltdown Vulnerabilities

By now many of you have read about the recently discovered security vulnerabilities named Meltdown and Spectre. We are closely tracking the availability of patches for different systems, and many of our systems in our data centers have already been patched. We’ll continue to monitor this on a daily basis and apply high confidence patches to our systems expeditiously.

We encourage iCarol users to be vigilant in monitoring for patches and updating your own PCs, laptops, mobile phones and other devices, to ensure the highest possible security. This includes paying close attention to available operating system updates (Windows Update, for example) and installing these updates promptly. Browser security is key as well, so be sure to check for and install the latest updates to your browsers of choice. Note also that as new security patches become available more updates may be necessary, and so fully securing your local tools from Spectre and Meltdown could be a multi-stage process.

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iCarol Webinar: Practicing Effective Management presented by TBD Solutions

The skills and natural abilities that make us great listeners, social workers, and mental health advocates don’t always lend themselves to making us naturally at ease in management roles. Yet, at the heart of every thriving behavioral health organization is a strong and well-functioning team, and these teams often do not exist without adaptive leadership and effective management. As the demands on managers increase and access to resources becomes more elusive, the team’s ability to deliver on its performance indicators becomes even more crucial to program success.

Simply put — you can’t adequately deliver services, maintain funding for your program, and ensure quality performance, enthusiasm and job satisfaction among your staff without effective managers.

We hope you can join us for our next webinar on this topic, scheduled for January 9, 2018 at 1pm EST:

Practicing Effective Management presented by Sarah Bowman and Travis Atkinson of TBD Solutions.

What You’ll Learn:

In this webinar, we’ll provide tangible keys to effective management through strong working relationships, performance communication, delegation, and professional growth. We expect that by joining us you will:

  • Learn the four critical behaviors of effective managers: knowing your people, communicating about performance, pushing work down, and growing your people.
  • Understand benefits and challenges of managing people in a mission-driven organization.
  • Learn how to proactively address the most common challenges faced by managers, including burnout, turnover, poor communication, and lack of accountability.

Space in this free webinar is limited! Click here to register.

Meet Our Presenters:

Sarah Bowman tbd solutions

Sarah Bowman, Associate Consultant, TBD Solutions

Sarah has infused the behavioral health system with infectious energy and a commitment to excellence for over 15 years. Her strong leadership, utilization of data-driven decision making, and focus on outcomes measurement has helped enhance a vast array of behavioral health programs and services. She is a dynamic presenter and trainer, with an excellent track record for building high performing, strengths-based teams.

Travis Atkinson tbd solutions

Travis Atkinson, Associate Consultant, TBD Solutions

Travis has served as a manager and educator for over a decade. A consummate student of management and leadership, Travis has supervised diverse teams and maintains a reputation for getting lasting results and spurring innovation. He has trained hundreds of managers across the Midwest.

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iCarol Webinar: Suicide Prevention through Emergency Department/Crisis Center Partnerships

On Wednesday, October 4th at 1pm EST, iCarol will host a webinar on the topic of Crisis Center/Emergency Department (ED) partnerships, specifically those where crisis centers make follow-up calls to discharged patients who came to the ED presenting with suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Research shows that for about 1 in 5 deaths by suicide, the person had actually visited their local emergency department in the weeks before their death. While hospital EDs can keep a person safe in the short-term and provide referrals to long-term care, they aren’t often the best resource to handle the complex and ongoing mental health and emotional needs of someone who is struggling with thoughts of suicide. Most people who visit an ED for concerns related to suicide are discharged after a very short period of time, and the discharge plan often doesn’t involve ongoing direct contact to check and see how the person is doing following their visit, potentially leaving the patient feeling lost and unsupported.

This is where more and more helplines are stepping in. Crisis Centers across North America have engaged in partnerships with their local emergency department to help provide care for ED visitors or discharged patients in the form of follow-up calls. Because crisis center professionals have the best knowledge, training, and resources to provide ongoing care such as this, EDs will make connections between the ED visitor to the crisis center. From there, crisis centers talk to the patient and make a series of follow-up calls or texts to the visitor to keep them feeling supported and engaged with a safety plan. Crisis centers are also best-equipped to see that a person receives referrals to more long-term mental health care or other needed referrals that can help resolve issues compounding a person’s distress and desire to end their life.

During this hour-long webinar, we’ll invite presenters to discuss first-hand experience of these partnerships:

    Charissa Tvrdy is a Lead Crisis Clinician and Hospital Follow-Up Coordinator at Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners. Ms. Tvrdy is responsible for oversight and project management of RMCP’s Hospital Follow-Up program. She works as a liaison between RMCP and participating Colorado emergency departments. Ms. Tvrdy assists call center staff in the training, implementation, quality assurance and daily operations of the program. Ms. Tvrdy received her Master of Science in Counseling Psychology from The University of Kansas. She has experience working in a call center serving people experiencing behavioral health crisis. Ms. Tvrdy also has clinical experience within a Community Mental Health Center.

    Dr. Michael Allen built the model Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program at Bellevue Hospital. He was chair of the APA’s Task Force on Psych Emergency Services, president of the Am Assoc for Emerg Psychiatry, member the NIH Emergency Medicine Roundtable, a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline steering committee member, a STEP-BD, ED SAFE and PRISM investigator and an author of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s ED Decision Support Guide. He has served as a subject matter expert for the US DOJ Civil Rights Div, CMS, NIMH, the Joint Commission and SAMHSA. He was instrumental in forming the Colorado Suicide Prevention Commission and the Colorado National Collaborative. He is currently Professor of Psychiatry and Emergency Medicine at the Johnson Depression Center, University of Colorado Anschutz Campus and Medical Director of Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners.

    Caitlin Peterson is the Coordinator of Best Practices in Care Transitions for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, working closely with crisis centers, professional organizations, community partners, and mental health providers to support and advocate for follow-up and partnership with crisis centers. Caitlin has worked in the mental health, crisis intervention, and suicide prevention field for over 10 years, 7 of those in various positions, and later manager, of a blended suicide prevention and information and referral hotline. She has a Master of Science degree in Marriage & Family Therapy from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

We hope you can attend — space is limited so please register ASAP if you’re interested in joining the live presentation. For those who can’t join us, we’ll have the recording available on our website at a later date. To learn more about this webinar and to register, click the button below.

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Hurricane Harvey brings record flooding to Texas

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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