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“It’s a Wonderful Life” and Imagining a World Without Helplines

This blog was originally published in December 2020. As this pandemic rages on, the message remains relevant, and so we’re sharing it with you again to mark the 2021 holiday season.

Content warning: This post discusses sensitive topics such as suicide and abuse.

In a year as strange and relentless as 2020, I needed a sense of normalcy more than ever this holiday season, and that came in the form of my annual viewing of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In years’ past, the film’s theme of suicide prevention struck me most. But like a lot of things, the experience of 2020 placed a new filter over the movie for me, and I started noticing elements that, while always there, hadn’t been as noticeable to me before.

The crises of 2020 were relentless. And when the bad news just keeps coming and it feels there’s no end in sight, no clear solution or relief, it can be easy to fall into total despair. George Bailey experiences this very thing in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” George passed on his own dreams so the dreams of others could be realized and those he loved could be happy, and for awhile he appears okay with that. Then a series of crises compound, and old trauma and resentments quickly rise to the surface. George, completely devoid of hope and solutions, is now staring into the icy churning waters of a river flowing beneath him. For all his good deeds and sacrifices, look at how bad things are. What was it all for? He contemplates how the world might be better off if he wasn’t here, or if he never existed at all.

George’s scenario got me thinking about the exhaustive work so many people have been doing all throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, only to have things stay the same, or get worse, day in and day out, with no relief in sight. When there’s no clear impact or positive change to motivate you, to reassure you that your sacrifices and work matters, how do you keep going? How do you resist despair and hopelessness?

I think the answer is similar to what we see in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” George can’t see his positive impact until he’s shown a world without him in it. Perhaps we need to briefly imagine what the world would look like without those forces of good working hard to help others.

What would our world look like now if helplines, contact centers, and other community services didn’t exist?

Contact centers and Information and Referral services like 2-1-1 commonly act as their community’s primary source of information about COVID-19, providing information on everything from common symptoms to look for and where to go to get tested. In many cases 2-1-1 became the official state/provincial source of COVID-19 information. Without that centralized information delivery service, health departments, emergency rooms, and medical offices are overwhelmed with people seeking information. Phone lines jam and human resources are syphoned from direct care treating those who are ill. Fewer people know where to get tested. More people get sick, and more lives are lost as a result.

The economic fallout from the pandemic will be with us for some time. Some say the financial recovery may take longer than public health recovery. Thankfully, people looking for financial assistance for their very survival—help with utilities or food—had places to reach. Places where a compassionate and knowledgeable specialist could, in a single interaction, provide ideas and resources that may help with several needs. Without those contact centers, those in need are left feeling lost and overwhelmed. Already worn down by their situation, they must now spend time and effort navigating the network of community services on their own. They don’t know how the systems work. They are frustrated and even more overwhelmed. It takes longer to access assistance. They miss several meals. They only find out about a fraction of the services for which they were eligible.

Quarantines and stay-at-home orders kept people at home more, and for many the people they live with are a source of comfort. For others, it’s a source of conflict or even danger. Suddenly, vulnerable individuals suffering abuse at the hands of a parent or partner, or LGBTQIA youth living with unsupportive family members, were cut off from their daily escapes and support systems. Without services specializing in providing safety and emotional support, they become more isolated. Tensions in the household rise. Abused partners and Queer youth have no professional confidential counseling to access quietly and privately through chats or text messages. There’s no emergency shelter to escape to.

Viruses and physical health have taken center stage this year, but the mental health toll is undeniable. We’ve been going through a collective, worldwide trauma. Everything familiar was disrupted and the entire concept of “normal” disappeared overnight. Many people are experiencing emotions they aren’t sure what to do with, and they aren’t ready to talk to their friends or loved ones. Others lack those connections and are processing things all on their own. Imagine a world without an outlet to help one cope with those feelings. No warmlines or impartial empathetic listeners, no crisis or suicide prevention services. The emotional suffering deepens and spreads, and we lose even more people to a different type of pandemic—suicide—that was present long before COVID-19.

So yes, 2020 was the worst, filled with more crises happening all at once than many of us could have imagined. And in a seemingly never-ending string of challenges, it may feel at times like your contributions, all your exhaustive efforts, aren’t making a dent. If reassurance and evidence of your impact seems elusive, think back to George Bailey’s tour of seedy Pottersville, the bad place version of Bedford Falls. Close your eyes and take a stroll through that scary, imaginary world without organizations like yours, and see that things could actually be much worse. It’s because of the good work of those who care, like you, that it isn’t.

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Happy New Year from iCarol

It’s hard to believe that soon we’ll be closing out yet another year. The passage of time has felt especially fast lately. The year prior, everything was exceptionally strange and most agree 2020 far overstayed its welcome. By comparison, the months each felt only a few days long throughout 2021.

For our customers, 2021 was another year where you were asked to do more for your communities than ever before, stretching your resources as much as possible to meet emergent and rapidly evolving needs. Many of our customer organizations continued to play a critical roll in COVID-19 response, for example contracting with local health authorities to take calls for COVID-19 hotlines and in many cases assisting with vaccine rollout efforts. As a result, you have improved the health of your communities and helped save lives. We couldn’t be more proud or honored to be associated with the amazing work you do.

The global pandemic advanced the need for communities to solve problems by coordinating efforts between agencies to reduce duplication of work and ease participation for consumers of services, all while collecting and sharing important data to prove impact that drives creation of new services and the funding to make it happen. As a result, we’ve received more requests than ever before from customers who need to participate in health information exchanges, securely pass intake information to a partner, and close the loop on outcomes and results of the services received. We’re delighted that our customers are making use of iCarol’s flexibility to help you leverage your data and say “yes” to these projects, and it has motivated us to continue to stay ahead of the innovation happening in these areas. Meeting your needs with technology, and giving you options in how you can engage with others to help your communities, will always be something that drives us here at iCarol.

Looking ahead, we know that the impacts of COVID will be with us for a long time to come, and so we’re prepared to continue brainstorming solutions with you as needs evolve. We expect the mental health and economic impacts to reverberate for years to come, which means your core services providing listening and empathy, connection to helpful services, and crisis intervention will be more important than ever. It’s appropriate timing that the U.S. will launch three digit dialing for suicide prevention and mental/behavioral health crises in the form of 9-8-8, coming in July of 2022. We’ve spoken to many organizations who will be participating 988 centers asking us how iCarol can assist. We’re committed to helping this new network meet its goals of creating better, more comprehensive mental and behavioral health systems and look forward to those continuing conversations, your ideas, and finally seeing 9-8-8 become a reality in July.

In envisioning new and better ways for the systems of care to work, we understand that your work is growing less transactional and more about seeing someone through a situation long term, building a relationship and being a part of their network of support. To that end, you may recall we asked you some questions a few months back about your case management needs and how well they are being served by us. We’re excited to say that thanks to your feedback, we’ve discovered several areas where we can improve and add tools to iCarol that will help you do this work better. To learn a bit more about this, I hope you’ll join our upcoming annual “State of iCarol” webinar in January where we’ll share some of what we have in mind for these sorts of developments in 2022. Stay tuned to the blog, and watch your iCarol Dashboard and email inbox for an invite. If you don’t already get our emails, I hope you’ll sign up here so we can stay in touch with you.

I hope that each of you, and your entire teams, can take time to be with the people and do the things that are most meaningful and rejuvenating for you. We see you, your dedication to your work of helping others and improving the world around you, and the clear positive impact you have. We look forward to another year serving you and wish you a happy holiday season and a bright New Year.

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Utah CALL-UP Uses iCarol Public Web Forms to Connect Physicians with Psychiatric Consultation

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

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USA Today: Child care providers grapple with a worker shortage

childcare professional seated at a table playing with children

According to a recently published report in USA Today, the child care industry in the United States has been one of the industries hit hardest by worker shortages. The closing of most day care centers early in the pandemic resulted in over 373,000 employees laid off or furloughed. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the industry has only recovered 70% of its pre-pandemic workforce.

The childcare staff shortage has caused childcare centers to be stretched thin, forced to reduce capacity and often increasing costs for parents and caregivers. Childcare workers bear a heavy workload due to the shortage, and parents unable to find affordable and reliable childcare must often leave the workforce themselves.

Click here to read the full report.

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Postpartum Support International seeks Data Manager/Quality Improvement Specialist

Postpartum Support International (PSI) is searching for a qualified candidate to join their team in the role of Data Manager/Quality Improvement Specialist.

PSI is looking for someone to manage the Case Management Software and HelpLine reporting. This is a work-from-home position and is fully remote. You are the sole Data Manager/Quality Improvement Specialist in the organization, providing database and quality improvement management, and communicating with non-technical staff and board in our non-profit organization.

Resourcefulness is a necessary skill in this role. You should be able to diagnose and resolve problems quickly. You should also have the ability to communicate with a variety of interdisciplinary teams and users, and the ability to show patience along with a clear understanding of technical issues while explaining in clear terms to non-technical staff. Candidates must be comfortable in an environment that priorities diversity, equity, and inclusion, and in an organization that works to address systemic inequities.

Your goal will be to ensure that our technology and network infrastructure runs smoothly and efficiently, and to coordinate with a variety of internal stakeholders regarding the specifics of their web pages, database information, and related technical systems.

The Data Manager/Quality Improvement Specialist reports to the Hotline Project Director and works collaboratively with other staff, board members, and Case Management System vendor to implement strategic solutions.

Primary responsibilities include:

  • Manage and optimize Case Management Software application, status, and improvements for HelpLine/Hotline Operation
  • Devise and establish database management and quality improvement systems to support the implementation of organizational strategies
  • Oversee database management and quality improvement, monitor key performance indicators, and evaluate them according to established goals
  • Research and implement technical improvements and solutions to database system and communication integration
  • Monitor performance and maintain systems according to requirements
  • Make recommendations to improve key performance indicators
  • Troubleshoot issues and outages, work with team to respond to surges or natural disasters
  • Develop expertise to assist in staff and volunteer training in case management system
  • Assist in the development of internal documentation of database case management systems
  • Resolve technical issues, detect patterns of occurrences and coordinate with staff regarding handling resolutions to persistent problems
  • Manage data collection, surveys and reports, including monthly and ad-hoc reports, as needed
  • Contributes to the interpretation of data analysis and reports. Presents findings in easy-to-understand terms.
  • Use on demand and ad hoc queries and reports to review, monitor, and report on evaluation outcomes

In order to qualify for the role, the ideal candidate will possess the following experience:

  • Database management: 2 years (Required)
  • Quality management: 2 years (Required)
  • QA/QC: 2 years (Required)
  • English (Required)
  • US work authorization (Required)
  • Bachelor’s (Preferred)
  • Microsoft Excel: 5 years (Preferred)
  • Survey design: 1 year (Preferred)
  • Network monitoring: 1 year (Preferred)
  • One to three years of related experience is required
  • Experience working with data management systems and reports. Experience with iCarol CMS preferred.
  • Experience with data collection, entry, quality assurance, visualization, and reporting
  • Experience with survey and assessment design
  • High level of computer proficiency
  • Degree in social science, statistics, or a related field

This remote work position pays a salary of $70,000 USD per year and benefits include: Health and Vision Insurance and Health Savings Account; Tuition Reimbursement; Employee Discount; Retirement; Paid Leave, and more.

This blog contains highlights and excerpts from the job posting. Click the button below to learn more and apply for this position.

Learn More and Apply

iCarol is posting this career opportunity on behalf of Postpartum Support International. Postpartum Support International is an equal opportunity employer. Postpartum Support International will not discriminate and will take measures to ensure against discrimination in employment, recruitment, advertisements for employment, compensation, termination, upgrading, promotions, and other conditions of employment against any employee or job applicant on the bases of race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. www.postpartum.net

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Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline featured in local media for Suicide Prevention Month

logo for the idaho suicide prevention hotline

In the nearly nine years since first launching, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline has responded to more than 78,000 calls, texts and chats.

Today the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline was featured in a special report by KTVB 7 news in Boise, which highlighted their services and impact on the community.

Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline Director Lee Flinn shared that, “Idaho’s suicide rate right now is 46% higher than the national rate. So it’s quite high…We really are here for anyone who is in crisis, whether it’s a suicidal crisis or a different kind of crisis, and we want people to know that we’re always here and we’re always ready to listen.”

The volume of incoming requests for help is increasing, with August bringing in the most contacts to date. And while helping a record number of people is keeping their 80 volunteers and staff busier than ever, Lee Flinn feels it’s a good sign, saying, “it means that people are reaching out for help, and we want people to reach out for help.”

To watch the video and read the full story, visit the KTVB website.

When your organization is featured in the media, be sure to let me know so I can share it on our blog!

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Reuters: Millions receive first child tax credit payments

mom places mask on small child

From Reuters: 39 million U.S. households will be issued monthly federal checks started Thursday as part of a massive expansion of the child tax credit. The Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University estimates that the expansion can lift 5 million children out of poverty and reduce the U.S. child poverty rate by up to 45%.

The approach is notable both for its wide reach – the checks issued this week will reach nearly 90% of U.S. children, according to Internal Revenue Service estimates – and for distributing half the money monthly instead of in one lump at tax time.

The program, which is not limited to low-income families, is being likened to a universal basic income for children. Single parents earning up to $75,000 and couples making up to $150,000 can receive the full credit.

Under changes made by the American Rescue Plan passed in March, families will receive up to $3,600 for every child under age 6 and $3,000 for those ages 6 to 17, up from $2,000 per child. A minimum income requirement was removed and the credit was made fully refundable, making it more accessible to parents who don’t work and those with low tax bills.

Click here to read the full article.

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SAMHSA awards $62.4 million in grants to combat child trauma

logo for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the United States

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is distributing $62.4 million in grant funding to provide and increase access to effective treatment and services systems in communities throughout the nation for children, adolescents, and their families who experience traumatic events. The White House is bolstering these awards with $800,000 in American Rescue Plan (ARP) support.

In 2000, Congress established the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTSI) as part of the Children’s Health Act. Through this initiative, a collaborative network of experts was created to further the development and dissemination of evidence-based clinical interventions for systems that serve children, adolescents, and families.

SAMHSA’s NCTSI raises awareness about the impact of . . . Learn More.

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Career Opportunity: Family & Children’s Service Nashville Seeks Data Manager

Family & Children’s Service Nashville is looking for a Data Manager to assist with the implementation and maintenance of databases, data collection systems, and strategies that optimize the efficiency and quality of data. In coordination with the Director of Data Analytics, this position helps maintain the data infrastructure to support operations, including reporting and quality assurance. This position will also support a partner nonprofit agency with database administration and reporting.

Responsibilities Include:

  • Create, refine, and generate reports on data and outcomes.
  • Identify and interpret trends or patterns in complex data sets.
  • Provide technical support for end users for databases and data collection systems.
  • Assist in quality assurance reporting by filtering and cleaning data to locate and correct problems.
  • Troubleshoot systems to ensure error-free functionality and end-user satisfaction by conducting research on specific issues related to individual queries or systemic issues.
  • Click here to read full job posting

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SAMHSA Awards 988 Dialing Code Administration Grant to Vibrant Emotional Health

On Wednesday, June 16, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced that Vibrant Emotional Health will be the administrators of the new 988 dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States. Vibrant, in partnership with SAMHSA, has administered the Lifeline since its creation in 2005. Click here to read SAMHSA’s full statement.

The process of creating the three-digit national number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has been ongoing for several years. Click here For more information on 988.

The team at iCarol extends our congratulations to Vibrant Emotional Health for being designated as administrators of the 988 dialing code. Through our years working with Vibrant Emotional Health and the many Lifeline Network Centers answering calls to 1-800-273-TALK, we have seen firsthand the passion and professionalism these teams bring to their work addressing the critical public health issues of suicide and mental health. 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.

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