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North Carolina 2-1-1 wins Inaugural AIRS I&R Innovation Award

iCarol would like to extend our congratulations to our friends and customers at North Carolina 2-1-1, who were selected to receive Innovation Awards in the Disaster Preparedness category, and also voted the overall winner of the Innovation Awards. This was the first year for these awards, given by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS).

NC 2-1-1’s submission stemmed from their experience as North Carolina’s disaster response portal, having experienced two major storms in two years’ time.

NC 2-1-1 first took on the role of disaster portal during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. During this historic storm and flooding that followed, many of the county’s 9-1-1 systems were knocked offline, causing residents to call 2-1-1 requesting life-saving intervention including water rescues necessitated by the flooding. This required quick thinking on the part of NC 2-1-1 staff and leadership to establish protocols in how to handle these calls and inform appropriate services to ensure the callers received appropriate assistance as quickly as possible.

hurricane florence precipitation While their quick action in the face of emergency surely saved many lives, there were some weaknesses in the process that became apparent. Namely, the 2-1-1 staff did not consistently receive follow-up or confirmation that NC 2-1-1’s referrals to emergency operations were successfully received and addressed, or that callers got the help they needed. In such high stakes situations, this added to the already heightened stress experienced by the 2-1-1 team during this disaster.

Post-disaster briefings provided both NC 2-1-1 and North Carolina Emergency Operations with the opportunity to talk through the situation that played out during Hurricane Matthew, and assess what should be done going forward to improve response during future disasters.

They decided that in future disasters they would implement changes, including:

  • The use of an internal web form by 2-1-1 staff that documents vital information about the caller, their location, contact information, emergency request, etc.
  • Completed forms would be sent directly to the Commander for Emergency Operations for distribution to the appropriate ground response team.
  • 2-1-1 staff would receive immediate confirmation that transmitted forms were successfully received.

The new, formalized protocols that emerged during the post-disaster briefings were quickly put to the test when Hurricane Florence arrived in September of 2018 and some 9-1-1 systems experienced technical difficulties in the face of unforgiving wind and flooding. This time, the 2-1-1 staff felt there was more accountability in the entire process thanks in part to the ability to track the movement of referrals to emergency operations. Confirmation that life threatening situations were successfully handed off from 2-1-1 to emergency services also helped reduce stress on 2-1-1 staff and lessen any unease that might have previously come with the lack of closure they received regarding the 9-1-1 calls.

We are extremely proud of the efforts of North Carolina 2-1-1 for their leadership on the topic of Disaster Response and service to the residents of North Carolina before, during, and after natural disasters. Their Innovation Award is certainly well-deserved, and we look forward to seeing them presented with the award at the AIRS Conference this week.

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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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Kelly Brown, Director of 2-1-1 Services at Interface, recognized among “2019 Women of the Year”

Reposted with permission from the original authors.

Congratulations to Kelly Brown, Director of 2-1-1 Services at Interface, for being one of the “2019 Women of the Year” in the 19th Senate District and the 37th Assembly District, an honor bestowed by California State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and Assembly member Monique Limón for her admirable 2-1-1 leadership in county and beyond, especially after last year’s tragic events.

Kelly is a nationally recognized 2-1-1 leader, sought after for her expertise and creativity. She’s tenacious, compassionate and oversees Interface’s dynamic 24-hour a day 2-1-1 Ventura operations. Kelly and her team has responded to countless local and national disasters, as well as the daily crises that flood into the 2-1-1 Ventura Contact Center ranging from serious domestic violence, homelessness and mental health crises. Our 2-1-1 Contact Center is growing as community partners see the huge value in leveraging 2-1-1’s reach and efficiencies.

Kelly will be honored together with Ventura County’s Kristin Decas of Port of Hueneme, Peggy Kelly from the Santa Paula Times and Jenifer Nyhuis of Vista del Mar Hospital during the 2019 Women of the Year Reception held on Friday, March 29th at Ventura County Credit Union in Ventura from 5pm-7pm.

When reached for comment, Kelly said:

“The work my team has done over the last couple of turbulent years has been difficult but the staff at Interface 2-1-1 have been able to rise up to meet the new challenges while maintaining the quality of our regular 2-1-1 work. I appreciate my Interface staff, our community partners, and our funders that have helped us to expand our range and reach in order to serve those that lost homes to disaster, and family members to violence.”



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Expansion of iCarol Support Hours and Service Offerings

Providing excellent customer service is a top priority for the iCarol team, and recently we have been working to enhance the ways in which we serve our valued customers. Below are details about several new initiatives we have implemented:

*NEW* Live Chat with Support

Beginning Friday, March 1, our Support Team is available through Live Chat during normal support hours for all of our customers as a part of our Standard Support Package that is included with an iCarol system subscription. Designated support contacts can initiate a Live Chat session with members of the support team during normal support hours by taking the following steps:

  • Log in to your iCarol system
  • Click ‘Help’ in the left hand menu
  • Click ‘Cases – contact the iCarol Support Team’ at the top of the screen
  • Click the ‘Live Help Online’ button in the middle of the screen, OR the ‘Chat Now’ button at the bottom of the screen

iCarol premier support packagePremier Support Package

We now offer a Premier Support Package. This includes all of the features of the Standard Support Package, as well as:

  • A member of the iCarol Support Team designated as the customer organization’s Technical Account Manager (TAM). This is an assigned member of the Support Team who oversees all requests for ongoing support assistance.
  • One scheduled, 60 minute team screen share/call per month between the TAM and the Designated Support Contacts, scheduled by the TAM.
  • If additional iCarol team members are brought in to best assist the customer, all interactions will be directed and managed by the TAM.

iCarol expanded support hours*NEW* Expanded Support Hours

We have added weekend availability to our normal support hours. In addition to our previous hours of 8am to 8pm Eastern Monday through Friday, members of our Support Team are available Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm to 5pm Eastern.

These are the hours during which our team is available to investigate and respond to support cases through the case management system, email, and live chat. In addition to these support hours, our technical and infrastructure teams will continue to monitor for system uptime and performance 24/7, and our Support Team has a process in place to routinely check the case queue for urgent issues at points beyond normal support hours, as has been our policy in the past.

If you are a customer and have any questions about the services outlined above, or if you would like to upgrade to Premier Support, please open a case with the Support Team. If you are a not an iCarol customer yet, please contact us. We would love to hear from you.

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A Year of Change

year in review

As I reflect back on 2018, there’s no question that this has been a significant year for iCarol. As many of you know, iCarol was acquired by Harris Computer Systems on March 12 of 2018. Harris is part of Constellation Software, Inc., Canada’s largest software company.

The Harris acquisition allowed our co-founders, Neil and Jackie McKechnie, to step away from iCarol knowing that it would be in good hands as part of a company which intended to retain it, invest in it and to help it grow further. While it was bittersweet to lose Neil and Jackie, we realized this move enabled them to pursue new goals in their lives, including spending more time with family and friends. We stay closely in touch with them and wish them the very best in their new endeavors.

This new chapter in iCarol’s history has brought a number of benefits, as the iCarol team has been able to rely on guidance from Harris’ accomplished compliance and legal teams, and to utilize ongoing assistance from corporate Finance and IT departments. This freed up team members to focus on other needs of the organization, which we could not do as easily before we had the resources of Harris behind us.

In addition, as part of Harris there is an ongoing opportunity to learn and grow from a team of thousands of software professionals in a variety of roles, allowing us to network with sister business units in sectors such as healthcare, emergency management, law enforcement, government, public schools, and more. There’s a lot to learn as we bring back ideas to improve iCarol, in how we serve and support our customers, and how we design our software to provide more value to its users.

We look forward to continued growth and investment in iCarol in 2019, as we focus on five primary initiatives throughout the year:

  • Increased Scalability
  • Improved Data Privacy and Security
  • More Powerful Resource Management
  • Greater Flexibility in Reporting
  • Collaborative Data Sharing

In the interests of keeping this blog brief, we’ll expand on improvements made to iCarol in 2018, and each of these initiatives in the early part of 2019, through blog articles and webinars. Stay tuned for more details on these!

While it’s been a momentous year for iCarol, change has also affected our customers, as we’ve seen trends in nonprofit funding and donations shift, and in some cases decline precipitously. A number of our customers provide some type of assistance during and after disasters, and there have been many heartbreaking examples this year. Throughout it all our customers have stood strong and assisted as many as they possibly could, which continues to inspire us here at iCarol. As a matter of fact, the Harris team has commented on the tremendous commitment displayed by the iCarol team, which comes directly from working with our customers, and witnessing their determination in the face of such difficult odds.

On the positive side, in 2018 we have seen some strides forward in government recognition of the importance of suicide prevention, which heartens us all. It gives us hope that 2019 will see improvements in the funding and support all our customers rely on to perform their mission.

In this holiday season we salute you, our customers, and the tremendous work that you do. We wish everyone a safe, secure and happy holiday season. We remain honored to serve you and look forward to another year of service and giving in 2019 and beyond.

Warm wishes to you all,

Rachel Wentink
Vice President, Operations



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iCarol Webinar: Why Advocacy and How the Heck Do You Do It?

Advocating for the needs of your organization and the clients you serve is a huge component of the overall survival and success of your agency. Some may find the prospect of lobbying elected officials intimidating and confusing, but it’s actually not as complex or scary as it may seem!

We invite you to attend a webinar on this topic on Tuesday, December 11th at 2pm EST. Sara Sedlacek from The Crisis Center of Johnson County will present information that takes the mystery and intimidation out of the advocacy process, helping you get the ear and support of the local, state, and federal officials elected to represent you and the people who benefit from your services.

With legislative sessions beginning in January, now is the time to learn more about how to advocate for your organization.

Register Now

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iCarol strengthens security through enhanced user password requirements

At iCarol, we’re always looking to the most cutting edge and progressive ways of strengthening system security, protecting data, and preventing unauthorized system access. This always has been and will continue to be a top priority for us.

In addition to the security measures we take to protect data during its transmission and storage, ensuring good password strength is one simple way that each iCarol user can protect their system and the personal information stored within. That’s why, to help our users do this, we are proactively implementing advanced security protocols for passwords used to access the iCarol system. Once these new protocols are enacted, our users will be prompted to update their passwords to ensure they meet our new strength requirements.

We appreciate our users’ compliance with these new protocols. We want you to rest easy knowing we are doing our part to keep your iCarol system secure, while also helping ensure that each individual’s use of iCarol also upholds this security through tight password guidelines.

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Simple Ways to Make the Most of Giving Tuesday

In recent years, Giving Tuesday has emerged as a counterbalance to the consumer based Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday shopping traditions. It serves as a reminder that the holiday season is about charitable acts of kindness and helping our neighbors in need.

Giving Tuesday is an excellent opportunity for non-profits and charities to tell their communities about the work they do and encourage charitable giving to their organization. Smaller organizations or those that may be completely volunteer based shouldn’t feel incapable of participating — you don’t need a dedicated marketing team to take part in Giving Tuesday. Below are some simple ideas to try that don’t take a large budget or tons of advanced planning.

  • Simple Social Media

    At a minimum, your social media accounts should publish posts about Giving Tuesday (remember to use the hashtag #GivingTuesday to maximize your reach!). Post throughout the day or schedule your posts ahead of time with social media management software like Hootsuite, Buffer, or Sprout Social. Posts should include a call to action, i.e. do you want them to donate? Volunteer? Learn more about your work? Become an advocate? Depending on the call to action, include links to applicable web pages such as your volunteer opportunity or donation pages. Posts can focus on the work you do, success stories (shared either with client permission or written to remove identifying info), milestones and achievements, goals, and other information that you’d like your community to know about you. Examples of general Giving Tuesday social media posts can be found here. We’re always happy to help you boost your Giving Tuesday social media messages, so be sure to follow us on Twitter so we can follow you back to see your posts in our feed, then we can retweet your message to our followers.

  • Share Video or Photos

    Images and video are more compelling than text-only posts, and most social media sites say that posts that include them get more views, so use them if you can. Your video doesn’t have to be Academy Award worthy — spontaneous and unrehearsed videos are authentic and give people a sense of who you are. Try a quick interview with a colleague about what they do and why they love working for your agency. Or maybe do a fast tour around the office showing everyone hard at work. It can even be as simple as a 30 second video talking about the work of your agency. Videos should be short and sweet, as most research shows short videos are the most watched. After taking the video you can usually do some light editing or clipping right on your phone before posting it to social media. If you’re feeling brave you can even do a live video right from your Facebook or Twitter app on your phone.

  • Visit Your Neighbors

    Hopefully your organization is lucky enough to have some supporters in the business community that work with you throughout the year by holding fundraisers or making donations. Giving Tuesday is another perfect opportunity to engage with your biggest fans. Perhaps they’d be willing to participate in a short video. Or maybe they’d do something as simple as keep a donation box or stack of your agency’s brochures at their register or other space in their business. Most businesses, especially those that already support your work, will welcome the opportunity to continue their advocacy during the holiday season.

  • Meet and Greet

    If your organization is open to the public then Giving Tuesday is a perfect time to invite people in so they can learn more about what you do and become a supporter. Let your reception staff know about Giving Tuesday and equip them with brochures and other materials to give out. Consider hanging a sign in your lobby or outside your building to encourage people to stop in and learn more about your work in celebration of Giving Tuesday. Don’t forget — the holiday season is a great time for recruiting volunteers, too, so make sure applications or volunteer information is on hand as well.

  • Work Your Website

    Your website is one of your greatest assets, so make sure your Giving Tuesday participation is prominently featured somehow. This can be accomplished through something as simple as a blog post or homepage image, or more advanced like adding a new temporary widget to your site that directs website visitors to your donation page, volunteer application, etc.

  • Don’t Let Callers Off the Hook

    If when people call you they first hear a general message or listen to a menu routing them to their desired destination, consider temporarily altering your greeting in honor of Giving Tuesday. This can be as simple as a 10-15 second “hello” wishing them a happy holiday season and inviting them to support your work, along with an invitation to visit your website for more information. This won’t add much at all to their wait time but will get your message in front of everyone who calls you.

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What Does Making a Difference Mean Today?

There seems to be constant pressure among millennials to achieve.

At the University of Iowa, each successive year of freshmen claim the new title of the “most accomplished class yet.” As a senior, my Facebook feed is flooded with job acceptances and pictures of people traveling the globe to study and volunteer. In a world hyper saturated with success, it’s often hard to focus on my own path, my own passions.

In the Spring of 2017, I stepped in to W332 in the Adler Journalism Building for a typical day of class. Then my dad called. I ignored it once. My sister texted me, asking if I’d talked to him. He called again. I stepped out of class, knowing something was wrong, and barely made it down the hall before I sunk to the floor, stifling sobs. He told me my cousin had died by suicide the night before.

The rush of confusion, guilt, and anger washed my sadness away. That wouldn’t hit until later, when reality settled in, and it would hit hard. I got up and beelined to the woman’s bathroom, stared myself in the mirror, gave up on understanding the pain in my reflection, mindlessly walked back to class, failed a quiz, and went home to bury myself in bed.

The only quantifiable effect of my cousin Christopher’s death in my life was the drop in my GPA that semester. Yet my heart was never the same.

His death, his suicide at the same age as me, made me question everything. It made me wonder what I’m doing in college, what exactly this degree is supposed to get me, and which experiences really matter.

I’m 21 years old, and for the first time, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. All I know is that old intangible cliché: I want to make a difference.

Losing someone to suicide makes all the tragedies in life feel more poignant and for a while I could imagine how my cousin saw the world before he left it: cold and mean. Lonely. But this does not have to be reality, and I’ve come to realize that making a difference does not have to mean making the world perfect.

When I remember Christopher’s face, I choose to remember him smiling. Playing guitar, laughing. I remember the gray sweater he wore the last time I saw him, how old he suddenly seemed when he had to hunch over to hug me. I remember us grimacing over our glasses of wine, the youngest in the family and the last to learn to like it. The world was still sad and scary sometimes, but it was better off because I could look across the table and there he was.

Just months before his suicide, my cousin reached out to me and told me about moving out of the house and in to his new apartment. He said, “I’m just worried about my mom missing me.”

I reassured him that of course she would miss him, but that would be okay because they had a lifetime together. He’d still see her. Neither of them would be alone. But was he trying to tell me something more? Was this the kind of conversation that could have saved his life, if he had called a crisis line that April night months later?

In a world with so many problems and so many people, my cousin’s death taught me that making a difference in the world can come down to making a difference in one single life. I believe making a difference is as simple as embracing co-dependence, reminding one another we’re in this together.

The insidious demons that caused my cousin’s death did not die with him, they threaten the wellbeing of people across the world. Not only depression but the pain of poverty, addiction, illness — the fear in feeling helpless, alone.

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I know I want to make a difference, I want to fight that fear. The internship I recently accepted with The Crisis Center empowers me to do just that.

I’d like to ask everyone reading to take this number down, to make a note of it:

    1-855-325-4296.

This is The Crisis Center’s Crisis Line. It does not necessarily mean a suicide hotline. It means a set of ears to listen and a voice to respond, if you even want to talk, which you don’t have to. It means no judgement, no evaluation. It means a human heart, beating with the one on the other end of the line, a person dedicated to nothing but being there.

Please, put us in your contacts: 1-855-325-4296. Call or text if you need someone to talk to, call or text if you are worried about someone you love. Pass the number on if you think someone else needs it. Write it on bathroom stalls, turn it in to a song and sing it while you walk, I don’t care. Just don’t ignore it.

If the only result of my internship is one single person saving that number, I’ve succeeded.

It’s hard to allow vulnerability and weakness. We live in an era of individuality where everyone wants to succeed, and no one wants to ask for help along the way. But being human means being challenged. It means being exhausted. Sometimes, it means wanting to give up. On the assignment driving you crazy, the job you can’t stand, the degree you’ve worked so hard for; on life itself.

The second we start being more open about this fact, the easier it is to overcome. And change doesn’t have to be big. Change can be as simple as answering honestly next time someone asks, “how are you,” and expecting them to do the same. It could be as simple as listening.

Encouraging open lines of communications between loved ones and between complete strangers makes the world a more connected and more caring place. For me, for now, this is the kind of difference I want to make.

Check in with your family and friends, ask them how they are doing. Really ask them. When they ask you, really answer. This question, this conversation, could change the world.

And if you feel alone, with no one to talk to, you’re wrong. We’re listening, at 1-855-325-4296.

How are you?

To join The Crisis Center in their mission, consider volunteering your time to a number of local and remote services: by answering the crisis phone line, answering the online crisis chat/text service. Volunteers are at the heart of the organization. For more information, visit: https://www.jccrisiscenter.org/volunteer-now/

Guest blogger Brooke Clayton is a communications intern at the Crisis Center of Johnson County in Iowa City, Iowa and a senior at the University of Iowa.

Guest blogger views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of CharityLogic, iCarol, or Harris Computer Systems.

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