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iCarol attending the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging conference

On Sunday, July 28 and Monday, July 29, iCarol Solution Expert Team Lead, Eliisa Laitila, will be at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

n4a is a is a 501(c)(3) membership association representing America’s national network of Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and provides a voice for the Title VI Native American aging programs. iCarol serves many organizations who are Area Agencies on Aging and therefore members of n4a, as well as other agencies in the aging and disability space. Aging and Disability Resource Centers, helplines that curb senior isolation and loneliness, and senior-focused information and referral services choose our solution because we empower them to:

  • Invite and document contacts from clients and their caregivers over a variety of communication channels: phone, in-person, web forms, and our integrated Live Chat and Texting.
  • Encourage No Wrong Door initiatives by enabling them to securely send information to partners, make warm transfers, and dispatch additional services.
  • Create and curate simple to complex community service inventories to share with clients and caregivers by phone, email, Text/SMS, and during Live Chat sessions.
  • Share searchable resource information on their own public websites, or the websites of partners such as senior centers, local libraries, and hospitals.
  • Engage in ongoing client contact to track client history and progress, ensure needs are being met, and to document customer satisfaction and outcomes.

In some cases, Area Agencies on Aging and Aging and Disability Resource Centers are using statewide software systems, and local centers may not be empowered to use iCarol as their sole solution for service delivery. However, even in these instances iCarol can still help! Some centers use iCarol to provide important capabilities not included in a statewide solution, such as live chat or SMS/texting capabilities that expand services to a wider audience, public intake or eligibility screening forms, or web searches of available community resources.

For more information on how iCarol helps senior serving agencies, click here. If you’ll be at the n4a conference, please stop by and see the team at booth 203 so that we can discuss how iCarol can help you. If you’re not in New Orleans for the conference, we welcome those interested in learning more about the iCarol solution to contact us to ask your questions or have a quick meeting to talk about your challenges so we can see how iCarol might help.

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National Council on Problem Gambling holds annual conference in Denver

This week, the National Conference on Problem Gambling holds its 33rd National Conference on Gambling Addiction and Responsible Gambling. This is the largest and oldest conference of its kind bringing together leaders in prevention, education, treatment, responsible gaming, research, and recovery.

Problem gambling helplines do wonderful work to strengthen families and improve health and wellness by reducing the economic, social, and personal costs caused by problem gambling. With the growing popularity and reduced legal barriers to sports betting, focus on awareness, education, and prevention are more important than ever.

NCPG has also focused its efforts on supporting members of the military after their research found that 56,000 servicemembers meet the criteria for a gambling disorder and that military personnel and their families are exposed to more than 3,000 slot machines on military bases located Outside the Continental United States (OCONUS) where over $100 million is gambled away every year. Research showed that military personnel are up to 2-3 times more likely to experience problem gambling. Yet, due to the stigmas associated with the disorder, less than ten percent of those with gambling problems seek help. The lack of protections against gambling addiction extend beyond active duty members: a 2019 study of veterans with gambling disorder discovered that they are twice as likely to attempt suicide as compared to veterans who do not have a gambling addiction, and 40% of veterans seeking problem gambling treatment report suicide attempts.

NCPG leadership influenced the introduction of a bipartisan, bicameral bill, the Gambling Addiction Prevention (GAP) Act of 2019. The proposed law would require the US Department of Defense to develop policies and programs to prevent and treat gambling problems, in coordination with the Department’s other behavioral health efforts. On military sites where gambling activities take place, such policies and programs would include providing educational materials and promoting responsible gambling behavior. It also requires the Department to update its regulations, instructions, and guidance to explicitly include gambling disorder within 180 days of the passage of the Act.

iCarol is the chosen provider for a national chat and text collaboration platform for the National Council on Problem Gambling. Several centers and organizations from around the U.S. participate to provide help in states where they provide services. Help seekers from around the U.S. can contact the NCPG National Helpline through phone, SMS/text, or live chat, and are routed to centers serving their local community whenever possible possible. If there is not a designated center available, a trained back-up center helps the person in need. Contact us if you are interested in a model like this at your organization or network.

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National Crisis Centers Conference seeks presentation proposals

crisis conference salt lake city

The 2019 National Crisis Centers Conference, presented by NASCOD and CUSA, will be held October 16 to 18 at the Radisson Salt Lake City Downtown in Salt Lake City, UT.

Conference organizers are currently seeking proposals for presentations. Proposals must fit the conference theme (below) and be received by the July 15, 2019 deadline to be considered:

    CrisisCon 19—Reaching the Summit: Innovate to Elevate

    During times of division and uncertainty, crisis organizations are needing to use their collective creative energies to remain relevant and sustainable. But challenging times can bring out the best in crisis organizations. We are excited to hear what innovative and creative programs and approaches are being implemented by our crisis organization colleagues.

Click here to learn more and submit your proposal.

For more information about the conference, and to register, visit the conference website.

crisiscon 2019

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Funding Opportunity: Research in Transforming Health and Health Care Systems

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced a funding opportunity for research studies that examine how state Medicaid programs are using managed care payment and contracting strategies to address enrollees’ social needs; the ways MCOs are responding; and the effect of these activities on enrollees, plans, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders.

The deadline for letters of intent is July 2, 2019. Full proposals are due on August 12, 2019.

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Request For Abstracts – Integrating Health and Human Services

Health Affairs, a leading peer review journal of health policy thought and research, recently issued a request for abstracts on Integrating Health and Human Services.

Description from Health Affairs website:

    Health Affairs is planning a theme issue on Integrating Health and Human Services, to be published in April 2020. We thank the Kresge Foundation for its generous support of this issue.

    The social safety net includes a variety of health and human services programs that have the potential to improve health and promote health equity by meeting health and social needs and supporting economic advancement. Some of the major barriers to realizing the potential of these programs relate to gaps in coordination across sectors.

    Our issue will explore collaboration between sectors that provide health and human services, with attention to infrastructure, policies, and practices within and across these sectors aimed at meeting the needs of the people they serve by reducing sectoral barriers.

    We plan to publish approximately 20 peer-reviewed articles including research, analyses, case studies, and commentaries from leading researchers and scholars, analysts, industry experts, and health and health care stakeholders. We encourage author teams that include representation from multiple sectors/professions… Read More

    The deadline to submit your abstract is June 24, 2019.

    Learn More

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Social Interventions Research & Evaluation Network Webinar: Patient Acceptability of Social Risk Screening

On Thursday, June 20 at 1pm EDT, Social Interventions Research & Evaluation Network (siren) will hold a free webinar entitled “Patient Acceptability of Social Risk Screening.”

Wbinar description, from siren’s website:

    Recognition of the impact of social risks on health has spurred widespread interest in social risk screening across the US health care sector. Although the goal of this screening is to improve patient care and connect patients to resources to help address social risks, the sensitive nature of social risks raises concerns about the potential for screening to stigmatize patients and create opportunities for discrimination. To date few studies have evaluated patient perspectives on social risk screening. This SIREN webinar will present results of a new multi-site study (papers in progress) that examined the acceptability of the Accountable Health Communities (AHC) social risk screening tool among patients in diverse health care settings in nine states.

    Learn More and Register

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iCarol attends the American Association of Suicidology Conference

On Wednesday and Thursday, April 24th and 25th Rachel Wentink, Vice President, Operations for iCarol, will be in Denver, Colorado attending the 52nd American Association of Suicidology (AAS) Conference.

The conference is a convergence of professionals working across the spectrum of the suicide prevention industry, from those operating crisis centers and other direct care services, to professionals working in academic settings conducting suicide prevention research, and advocates focused on education and awareness.

So we can continue to be aware and closely in touch with the topics that most impact iCarol’s customers, on Wednesday Rachel will attend the pre-conference program for Crisis Centers, followed by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline update session.

Having supported crisis centers since the earliest days of the Lifeline network, and serving a large portion of the network that are iCarol customers, we have witnessed the Lifeline’s growth year after year, both in the number of participating centers and the volume of contacts the Lifeline receives through calls, chats, and other forms of communication. We suspect the update provided at the conference will show continued expansion in 2018. Unfortunately 2018 was another year with well-publicized deaths by suicide of a number of celebrities, including Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and Avicii. These losses always result in a spike in volume and without fail the participating centers always step up to meet the challenge and provide help and hope to the people prompted to reach out for themselves or loved ones.

The Lifeline update also promises to provide information on developments in Lifeline initiatives such as Follow-up Matters and the Lifeline Safety Assessment. These and other projects directly inform iCarol’s strategy and product development in the coming months and years, which ensures we will continue to meet the needs of suicide prevention centers everywhere, providing the tools they need to do their life-saving work.

Finally, on Wednesday evening Rachel will attend the Crisis Centers Reception, which provides the chance to network and catch up with crisis center staff and leadership and hear all about the important work they are doing.

If you plan to be at the AAS Conference, Rachel would welcome the opportunity to chat with you about the needs of your suicide prevention service and answer your questions about iCarol. As always, we also welcome you to contact us at your convenience to share your challenges or projects and explore how iCarol can be of assistance.

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Registration open for annual iCarol User Group Summit

On Sunday, June 2nd, members of the iCarol team will conduct our annual User Group Summit, held just before the start of the Alliance of Information and Referral (AIRS) Training and Education Conference in Atlanta, GA.

The User Group Summit provides iCarol customers, and those not yet using iCarol but considering it for their organization, the chance to receive hands on training that will directly benefit service delivery and program administration. Following a number of training sessions held in the morning and early afternoon, the day concludes with a traditional user group session where guests can learn more about our strategy and product plans for the year, provide input on the types of solutions most important and impactful to their agencies, and help prioritize product development with their input on features in stages of consideration, development and implementation.

Our training topics were picked by our customers and will cover a number of in-demand topics including:

  • Recording and Reporting on Met and Unmet Needs
  • Resource Advanced Search and Bulk Editing Tools
  • Statistics and Reporting

**Note** We welcome our guests to attend any part of the day they wish — it is perfectly acceptable to attend only the User Group session, which will get started at approximately 2:30pm.**

We do ask that regardless of what part of our day you plan to attend, you register for the event so that we can plan accordingly. Registration is open now! Click the button below to learn more and register you and your staff. We look forward to seeing you in Atlanta!

Learn More

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“It’s a Wonderful Life” and the Importance of Connection

This time of year I like to post a blog I wrote years ago about Frank Capra Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” and how this popular and enduring holiday program centers around the topic of one man’s suicide plan. While most people view the film casually and this aspect of the story may take a backseat to the other major themes, for those of us who have experience working in the suicide prevention or crisis industry, it’s hard not to view the film from that unique perspective. And, I promise you, I’ll get to that in just a moment.

But, I recently read a highly engaging article titled The Best Way to Save People From Suicide featured in the Huffington Post last month. In summary, it discusses the idea that making connections and keeping in close contact with someone who is suicidal is a simple yet effective method of preventing suicide. Remarkably, this applies to many different types of contact, from simple texts or emails, making a call, even sending a form letter.

Reading about the importance of connections got me thinking about George in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Here’s a guy who has connected with a lot of people over his life. He’s a beloved son and brother, and well-liked member of the community. He is devoted to other people and several times through the course of the film, we see him sacrifice his own dreams and ambitions to help family members and others. In my opinion and observation watching the film, that lifetime of deferring his own needs for others leads to a degree of resentment and perhaps even depression.

Suddenly, as things in Bedford Falls turn grim, with a run on the bank and his uncle misplacing a large deposit at the worst possible time, the walls begin closing in and George, who has always been able to come to the rescue, feels desperate, helpless and hopeless. Worst of all, it would seem his connections are failing him right when he needs them most. He can’t see his own value, and the positive presence he is in so many lives.

When Clarence shows George Bedford Falls (or Pottersville, as it’s called in the dismal alternate universe where George was never born) and the lives of the people there without him, only then does George see the meaning his life has and the impact he’s had on the town and people residing there. Having been reminded of his value, he’s pulled from the darkness.

While thankfully Clarence’s supernatural abilities did the trick, just imagine how powerful it may have been for a real person George knew to recognize his pain, then pull him aside and tell him how important he is to them, and ask him how he’s doing. We all have the power to make and keep connections with the people we know, and check in on those who may be hurting. We don’t even have to have all the answers to their problems, we just have to be present with them and provide empathy in that moment.

And now, without further adieu…

13 thoughts of crisis workers when watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”

  • It bothers you that the movie perpetuates the myth that suicide rates go up at Christmastime

  • You’re envious of the detailed and factual background Clarence has on George, and think of how helpful this would be when working with your clients

  • You know of a dozen people you’ve spoken to this month who are in way worse circumstances than George, but knowing how complex and unique suicide can be for each person you’d never judge George for feeling how he does

  • You can list all the warning signs that George is giving, and yell at the other characters for not picking up on them

  • Even better, you wish someone would talk to George about his behavior and ask him directly if he was thinking of suicide

  • You cheer on Mary when she calls a family member to talk about how George was behaving, and doesn’t keep his uncharacteristic behavior a secret. Mary – 1 Stigma and Shame – 0

  • George’s story reminds you of all the people you’ve spoken to that thought their suicide would be what’s best for their family

  • You note the high lethality of George’s plan for suicide

  • And think of how more bridges need suicide barriers for this very reason

  • It angers you when Clarence tells George he “shouldn’t say such things” when George discusses suicide, effectively shutting him down and judging him rather than listening to why he feels this way.

  • You’re relieved when George finds his reasons for living

  • You’re thankful for the happy ending, but you know that it’s rarely wrapped up so easily

  • You’re reminded of why you do the work you do

Have you had any of these thoughts while watching this classic film? Got any other thoughts to add? We’d love to hear from you, leave us a comment!

And while you may not have wings, we know the countless individuals touched by your caring voices consider you all guardian angels. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to saving lives, during the holidays and all year ’round.

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7 calls you’ll take 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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