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Transgender Day of Remembrance

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Transgender Day of Remembrance, recognized each year on November 20th, honors the memory of transgender people lost to fatal violence and homicide. According to tracking by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), at least 23 transgender people were killed in acts of violence in 2016. Of those lost in 2016, 95% were transgender people of color, and 85% were trans women. HRC admits that their estimation of 23 lives lost is unreliable and likely lower than the actual number, because of the numerous difficulties involved in tracking these crimes. Reasons include the fact that crimes against transgender people are often underreported and gender identities may be misidentified by the media or law enforcement.

And sadly, so far in 2017 HRC estimates that 25 transgender people have already been lost to acts of violence. Often their deaths can be directly linked back to anti-trans prejudice. And, even in cases where this direct connection cannot be made, it is often clear that the victim’s transgender identity in some way made them more at risk of being a victim of crime. For example, transgender people are much more likely to become homeless than people who are not transgender, and homelessness puts a person at a much higher risk of becoming a victim of a violent crime.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a time to pause and honor each person, tell their story, and remember them. But scholar Sarah Lamble notes in Retelling Racialized Violence, Remaking White Innocence: The Politics of Interlocking Oppressions in Transgender Day of Remembrance:

None of us are innocent. We must envision practices of remembrance that situate our own positions within structures of power that authorize violence in the first place. Our task is to move from sympathy to responsibility, from complicity to reflexivity, from witnessing to action. It is not enough to simply honor the memory of the dead — we must transform the practices of the living.
It’s important to have discussions about violence against transgender people and talk about how we might be complicit in the circumstances of their deaths. How can we change that? What can we do to bring this number down to the only statistic that is acceptable — zero. Greater education about trans people and the issues they face is one important factor. Visibility and representation is another. As a society we can look at what programs and services, or legislation, can be enacted to better serve and protect transgender individuals. Even better, how do we build a more inclusive society where trans people are recognized as human beings worthy of equality and no longer seen as “other?” It’s only when all that happens that we may see anti-trans prejudice begin to decline, and violence against transgender people along with it.

You can read more about Transgender Day of Remembrance, find a local event or candlelight vigil, gather resources on trans issues, and learn what action you can take from the following places:

iCarol Welcomes New Development Team Manager

iCarol icon

We’re thrilled to announce the addition of Val Kozintsev to our team in the role of Development Team Manager. Val comes to us with 15 years of experience in the industry, having gained a wide breadth of experience and numerous technical skills during that time. He has extensive experience directing teams of engineers through development projects and managing software release cycles. Val previously co-founded and built a Software as a Service (Saas) product and company, the same software delivery model into which iCarol falls. In another of his former positions he dealt heavily with desktop, mobile, and cloud security. He most recently served as Team Lead for a large and well-established non-profit in the healthcare industry. We’re confident that Val’s combination of technical and management skills, along with his practical knowledge of the industry and clients we serve, will be an asset to iCarol and aid in the continued growth of our Technology Team. We’re so excited to have him on board, and hope you’ll join us in welcoming Val to the team!

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iCarol Featured on Microsoft Health and Human Services Blog

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Microsoft products play a large role in what we do and the innovative service offerings we’re able to pass along to our clients. So, we were delighted to have the recent opportunity for Jackie and Neil to sit down with Andy Pitman, Director of Health and Human Services Solutions at Microsoft, to talk a bit about iCarol and the incredible work of our clients as life-saving social safety nets of their communities. You can check out that interview here. We’ve very excited to announce some additional initiatives between ourselves and Microsoft soon – stay tuned to the blog and your iCarol Dashboard for more information.

Read the Interview

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Stigma is Scary – People Living With Mental Illness Are Not

Halloween couple

One of the things I like most about Halloween is that it offers such a wide range of ways to participate and have fun. Horror movies not your thing? You can stick to fun activities like carving a jack-o-lantern and handing out candy to trick or treaters. And then there are the endless costume possibilities. You can be anything from a superhero to your favorite movie character to some very obscure cultural reference or the more traditional choice of ghost or vampire.

So with that range of costume possibilities and ways to have fun in mind, it’s always deeply upsetting to see Halloween become an event where mental illness is misrepresented and stigmatized. Some haunted house attractions are centered around “asylum” themes, or have a “haunted psych ward” component. Actors wearing straight jackets or wielding weapons chase visitors and shout lines about hearing voices. The message is very clear: Mental illness, and people who experience mental illness, are scary, violent, and to be feared.

In recent years, several costumes have been pulled from the shelves following pressure from mental health advocates. Unfortunately every year there are still a few new inappropriate and offensive costumes that pop up and make their way to stores and online retailers, and regretably they are eventually seen out in public at bars and parties. And each time one is sold and then worn, it perpetuates the stigma and misconceptions around mental illness.

These interjections of mental illness into Halloween are neither fun nor harmless, but keep in place harmful stereotypes. These attractions and costumes continue pushing the idea that a person living with mental illness is violent and should be avoided. Discrimination is still a problem for people living with mental illness, and every day those who experience symptoms choose not to seek help for fear of mistreatment. These depictions also hurt those who have experienced mental illness, especially those who have been hospitalized. Their deepest fears about what society thinks of them are realized when they see illness become a subject of fear-based entertainment.

It would never be acceptable to have haunted houses set in a hospice or cancer wing of a hospital, nor would we find cancer patient costumes to be appropriate. It’s important that we all speak up when we see mental illness being stigmatized, and stand up for those who have experience with illness and are negatively impacted by the perpetuation of stigma.

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Latest Enhancements to Automated Resource Verification

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As we mentioned in our recent blog about the iCarol Ideas Portal, quite a few recent and upcoming enhancements to iCarol are a direct result of contributions and engagement on the portal. That includes these recent enhancements to Automated Verification — the iCarol tool that helps you keep Resource records accurate on a regular basis, and helps maintain AIRS accreditation, with less manual work by your Resource Management staff.

Automated Verification Request Email Outcomes and Bounced Email Notifications

Whether you’re sending just a handful or a hundred of requests for verification out to service providers, it’s nice to know what happened to those emails and if they made it successfully to their destination. With this latest enhancement, you now know even more about the outcome of those emails, specifically whether or not they “bounced,” i.e. they encountered a problem along the way and did not make it to their intended destination. This would happen particularly if the email address wasn’t valid, which tells your Resource Managers they may need to contact that organization to verify a valid email to use for future Automated Verification Requests.

AVR Bounced email

In addition to seeing the bounced status when viewing the original request page, the Resource Specialist who initiated the request will also receive an email notifying them that the request bounced and did not make it to the intended recipient. The additional notification via email will help alert them to the fact that the verifier did not receive their Automated Verification request, which could help them address and resolve the issue more quickly.

bounced email notification email

Initiate an Automated Verification Request While Editing a Resource Record

Sometimes you may want to initiate an Automated Verification Request for a single record in your database. You could certainly do this using the typical method of going to the main Resources search screen, choosing the “Verify” option, and searching for the record you wish to verify.

Search for resources to verify

However, often when a single verification is needed it’s because the Resource Manager was actively reviewing the record and notices it needs an update. Or, perhaps another staff member has flagged the Resource and the Resource Manager is investigating. In these and many other cases, it would be very convenient to initiate an Automated Verification Request right then and there, for that single record, without having to go to the main Resource search page. Well, now you can do exactly that! While editing a record, in the section that outlines verification information, a link appears that can initiate the request. When clicked, the link takes the Resource Manager to the page where they configure the request settings.

Initiate AVR while editing record

We hope our Automated Verification users enjoy these two enhancements to the feature. We think they’ll help maintain Resource accuracy while saving your Resource Specialists some time in the process.

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iCarol Participates in Startup in Residence Project

Start Up In Residence

At the 2017 Startup in Residence Demo Day held this past month in San Francisco, participating groups were given 5 minutes to present their collaboration’s technological solutions to identified problems. iCarol and skyClutch were delighted to work together with the Our Children Our Families Council (OCOF) as one of the participating groups. skyClutch is an independent company which aims to help their clients with better resource delivery through user-friendly website integration. San Francisco’s Our Children Our Families Council works to make sure the resources of the city of San Francisco are directed toward helping children and families thrive.

The identified problem? Many of our youth and their families have the burden of searching multiple directories and portals for information but none of them are comprehensive. Most online directories provide basic health and human service listings, but do not include out-of-school activities, in-school services, child care openings, affordable housing listings, or information on medical support groups. The Our Children Our Families Council, a collaborative effort with the San Francisco Mayor’s Office and San Francisco Unified School District, seeks to create a comprehensive digital service directory, which would include all publicly-funded and publicly-administered services for children, youth, and their families including San Francisco Recreation and Parks, Department of Children Youth and their Families (DCYF), public safety resources, childcare, housing, health care, legal aid, and more. Currently, service data is decentralized and often inaccessible to the populations most in need. Much of the current service data is locked in proprietary silos maintained by individual organizations in different formats and is inaccessible to other departments, agencies, and stakeholders.

The proposed solution: A digital directory that connects disparate data sets into one holistic portal to increase accessibility and uptake of services to help San Francisco families thrive. Intended users are students, parents, teachers, counselors, youth, community based organizations, and city departments. The site would have front-end (e.g., homepage) that links to multiple search portals, which are unique to a particular data structure, user segment or issue such as transitional aged youth (TAY), child care, or housing. The goal is for the front-end to be user-friendly, translated into multiple languages, and mobile friendly. Users can search the service inventory via text field, location search, category search and bookmark, print, save, and share the resources they’ve identified and plan to access.

Moving forward: The Our Children Our Families Council is focused and committed on building, in partnership with iCarol and skyClutch, a centralized database of all San Francisco’s publicly-funded and publicly-administered services for children, youth, and their families. Through the use of the iCarol Resource API, skyClutch and the operational support from the Mayor’s Office of San Francisco and the San Francisco Unified School District, children and families awareness and ability to access needed resources will increase. The centralized database system will also allow the city to be more cost effective in how it can make residents aware of services and address resident needs. Behind the scenes, it also assists the city in knowing what types of services residents need most and what gaps there may be, ultimately helping the city strategize and improve response. And finally, it reduces frustration and builds trust between residents in need and their local government offices.

We are proud to be the chosen technology platform for OCOF’s service inventory and are very excited for the positive impact this project will have on children and families in San Francisco.

What is the STIR Program?

Local governments are under increasing pressure to meet constituent needs and engage with the public in innovative and cost effective ways. But, spending time and money on innovation is not always easy for city governments already stretched thin and busy with the day-to-day work operations. The Startup in Residence (STIR) initiative began in San Francisco in 2014, with the goal of solving civic challenges and addressing residents’ needs by pairing up government agencies and startups.

The partnered startup and governmental department work together over the course of 16 weeks to address a specific challenge using a co-developed technological solution. While the STIR program originated in San Francisco, it has since expanded to the nearby cities of Oakland, San Leandro and West Sacramento, with plans to go nationwide in 2018. You can learn more about STIR’s origin and history by watching this brief video.

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iCarol Innovators – Your Voice Matters

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At iCarol we believe that our customers are also some of our best innovators. From the very start, helpline volunteers created iCarol and we’ve continued that tradition of users driving product development as the years go by. Many of the features you use in iCarol every day grew from a “light bulb moment” had by one of your peers. This community development approach drives our future product development. After all, no one knows your business or what type of tool or enhancement could improve your work like you do.

iCarol Usergroup Summit at the AIRS Conference

Our conference appearances throughout the year provide opportunities for iCarol usergroup sessions where iCarol users can discuss our software, provide feedback, and hear about our development plans, often referred to as our “Product Roadmap.” Prior to the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) conference in May we hold an iCarol Usergroup Summit where we offer trainings by AIRS Certified iCarol staff, as well as a traditional usergroup meeting.

This past spring, we asked for the AIRS Usergroup Summit attendees’ help on voting and prioritizing identified enhancements that should be first in line for development. Attendees received a firsthand look at how hard it is for us to decide where to focus our efforts. They took their task seriously, and graciously provided valuable feedback. You’ll be seeing the results of their efforts soon as these new developments start to be released in your iCarol system. As always, watch the iCarol blog and the Dashboard in your iCarol system for details.

Following the Summit one attendee described iCarol as, “Not just a vendor but a partner” in their organization’s mission. This is absolutely our goal as we work with all of our clients as we believe deeply in helping you to affect positive change in your communities. We’re happy to share that 100% of Summit attendees described themselves as Satisfied or Very Satisfied overall with the material presented at AIRS iCarol Usergroup Summit, and 100% of the group found the individual session content relevant to their everyday work. We think it’s a great event that you should attend next year, but you don’t have to take our word for it – 91% of attendees said they are likely to recommend attendance to others. We’ll be announcing future AIRS iCarol Usergroup Summit plans in 2018 so stay tuned!

Advisory Boards and Focus Groups

In an effort to keep client discussions going not just when we see you at conferences but throughout the year, we’ve recently kicked off a new and exciting venture — creating two separate iCarol Advisory boards, one to represent Crisis Centers/Helplines, and one to represent Information and Referral organizations. Each iCarol Advisory Board will ensure representation of industry voices in our development process through virtual meetings year round. Goals include providing iCarol with guidance on their industry’s evolving needs, providing feedback on existing and future software development, and validating that iCarol’s strategy and development plans meet the needs of the industry being served.

In addition to the iCarol Customer Advisory Boards, we are also hosting more focus groups than ever before. Focus groups are made up of individuals to discuss a particular challenge or development approach we are considering. Focus groups give the iCarol Product Development team the opportunity to discuss challenges our clients experience and potential solutions.

Want to get involved in an iCarol Advisory Board or Focus Groups? Participants are identified and invited through their participation on the iCarol Ideas Portal, from the cases they submit, feedback from surveys or ways in which their iCarol systems are configured.

Annual Customer Survey

It’s important to provide organization leaders and management staff across our client pool with the opportunity to share feedback covering all areas of iCarol, from our customer service to the use of the product itself, and to that end we just wrapped our annual Customer Survey a few weeks ago. We’re busy compiling and analyzing those results now so we can internally discuss how this feedback will drive us in the months ahead. We truly value the time you took to complete this survey and we will share results and action plans coming from that survey in the months ahead.

iCarol Ideas Portal

And finally, we just celebrated about 7 months of having the iCarol Ideas Portal available. This has proven to be an effective way of both receiving and prioritizing client ideas, and communicating about these ideas and their progress towards implementation. You may have caught our recent blog sharing some notable stats on the portal’s usage and just how much this method of client involvement has impacted your iCarol system already. If you haven’t, you can check that out here.

We hope, with these various methods through which we receive feedback and ideas, that you feel like a part of our iCarol Community where your voices are heard and opinions are acknowledged. Your role in our product development is an integral part of what we do and we look forward to continuing that tradition in both familiar and new and exciting ways.

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Happy 7 months to the iCarol Ideas Portal!

birthday cake

The iCarol Ideas Portal was released about 7 months ago, and already it is having a big impact, just as we hoped it would.

Since its release you have used the portal to:

            • Add over 300 enhancement and feature ideas
            • Cast 900 votes for your favorite ideas
            • Submit about 150 comments to help our team better understand ideas

To date, nine ideas originating on the iCarol Ideas Portal have been released for use. We’ll talk about some of these in more detail on separate upcoming blogs, but here’s a brief summary of a few of those ideas and what they do:

  • Receive email notifications and details when an Automated Verification Request has “bounced” and not made it to the recipient
  • Receive email notifications that a Resource record has been flagged for review
  • Initiate a new Automated Verification Request for a single record while viewing that record

There are currently 14 ideas planned and in progress, some that originated on the Ideas Portal and other ideas that were pre-existing but added to the portal so you could share you comments, feedback, and votes. Some of these planned ideas include:

  • Create PDFs that include only certain fields of your Resource records
  • Schedule statistics and specialized exports on a reoccurring basis
  • Allow the template for sending referrals by SMS to draw fields from Site records
  • Flexible date ranges in your statistical Summary Report
  • Include Custom Fields in your Resource record PDFs
  • Send referrals in the body of an email
  • Integration with the 2-1-1 National Text Platform (NTP) including:
    • Phone-to-Text referrals using 898211
    • 2-way texting using 898211
  • Pre-conversation surveys via SMS/Texting
  • Updates to the iCarol Help area
  • Applying your feedback to our Learning Guides
  • Standard Resource Export using the AIRS XML 3.0 Schema

We want to thank you all again for embracing the iCarol Ideas Portal as you have, and contributing so many wonderful ideas to it. By participating on the portal and casting your vote on the ideas that would be most beneficial to you and your organization, you help our Product Management team prioritize what we work on next, and enhance the iCarol experience for everyone. Keep those ideas coming!

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Recording available: Suicide Prevention through Emergency Departments/Crisis Center Partnerships

webinar

On Wednesday, we welcomed Dr. Michael Allen and Charissa Tvrdy of Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners (RMCP), and Caitlin Peterson of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL), to talk about how follow-up contacts and partnerships between crisis centers and hospital emergency departments (ED) are impacting suicide prevention efforts.

Dr. Allen and Charissa spoke of their experience working at RMCP where they partner with a large number of hospitals spread out over hundreds of miles. They expanded on their experience, data, and lessons learned from these collaborations where ED visitors are assessed and referred to their program for a series of follow-up calls following the hospital visit. Caitlin discussed the Lifeline’s Follow-up Matters initiative and microsite that provides crisis centers with data and other tools to help build a follow-up program, including information to help build collaborative efforts with local hospitals.

This engaging webinar and our presenter’s slides are now available for viewing.

Watch Now

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iCarol at the National Crisis Centers Conference

Niagara falls Buffalo New York

From Oct 18 – Oct 20, I’ll be attending the National Crisis Centers Conference in Buffalo, NY along with iCarol’s Director of Business Development, Polly McDaniel, and our newest Solutions Expert, Tonya Broomer, who you may recognize from her previous role as an iCarol Support Team member!

Our history with this group is our longest association, going way back to iCarol’s earliest days, and many of the helplines and crisis centers who host this conference were some of iCarol’s earliest users. It’s a long standing relationship that we value and we’re proud to not only attend but are also long-term sponsors of this important gathering organized by pillars of the helpline industry, CONTACT USA (CUSA) and the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors (NASCOD). Both organizations are phenomenal in supporting crisis work and we recommend considering membership for your service. Find out more about CUSA membership here and NASCOD membership here.

This year’s conference theme is “Unity in Helping.” Time and again we see how coming together and working towards a common goal makes organizations and communities stronger. We recently joined NASCOD and CUSA member organizations and others to rally around a common theme of “being there for others” during National Suicide Prevention Week. This movement empowered millions of people to take action to prevent suicide. Having so many voices on this common theme helped broadcast that message further. We’re looking forward to this year’s conference sessions highlighting all the ways in which we’re stronger together, whether it’s teamwork within your helpline or collaborating with partners in other organizations.

Let’s meet up!

While we look forward to these conference workshops that keep us in-the-know about the issues faced in the industry, which in turn helps us better serve our clients, we also enjoy the chance to see current and potential iCarol users face-to-face so we can hear about their vital work and explore ways we might be able to help. This year we’ll offer some dedicated space before the conference begins, to be available to those who may wish to talk with us.

When: October 18, 9am-4pm
Where: Embassy Suites (same hotel as the conference), Encore Ballroom on the second floor

We’ll be prepared to address whatever topics you wish to discuss, such as:

  • Training on how to use certain iCarol features
  • Quick system tours to those unfamiliar with iCarol
  • Feedback or comments
  • Any other iCarol questions

There’s no need to schedule an appointment — just stop by at any time you’re free from other conference activities (click here to check-out the preliminary schedule). If you have any questions you’d like to ask prior to stopping by, feel free to !

If you can’t make it on the 18th but wish to meet with us, don’t worry. We’ll be attending sessions and other conference activities and can catch up with you at whatever time is most convenient. See you in Buffalo!

National Crisis Centers Conference 2017

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