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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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iCarol eBook on Building Better Collaborations

Collaboration is becoming a necessary part of not-for-profit work. Ensuring a partnership is successful for everyone involved takes careful planning that starts long before you begin the work with your fellow collaborators.

The team at iCarol has been helping our customers have smoother collaborations since the software’s creation, through a variety of tools that include sharing resource database for the purposes of both maintenance and referral giving, contact form sharing to help with after-hours outsourcing and network building, and features like the Contact Record Outbound API and Resource API that allow data to be shared directly with other applications.

For several years, before they even worked for iCarol, Senior Product Manager, Crystal McEachern, and Director of Business Development, Polly McDaniel, have offered guidance on collaboration building at industry conferences. They have over 20 years of combined experience on both sides of collaboration—as I&R professionals working with their fellow non-profit organizations and as iCarol staff members helping customers build collaborations.

Now, you can learn from their expertise through an all new eBook authored by Polly and Crystal. In it, you’ll find step-by-step guidance on building a collaboration, including tips for the planning process and important things to consider that are often overlooked. Does the prospect of writing an MOU make your head spin? We have you covered! The eBook even includes a workbook for use in your own personal collaboration planning.

Best of all, the eBook is completely free — we’re sharing it with you in hopes our experience and guidance can help you successfully deliver services to even more people in your communities.

Download the eBook

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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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What would you like to learn about at the 2019 iCarol User Group Summit?

Each year, one of the largest gatherings of iCarol users takes place at the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) Training and Education conference. As a part of this conference, iCarol holds an all-day User Group Summit the Sunday before the conference officially kicks off. At this Summit, we hold the traditional User Group meeting that covers company plans, ongoing developments, and strategies for the year ahead. However, our User Group Summit is a more than just the user group meeting. We also offer free, in-depth and hands on iCarol training so our customers can get even more value from their iCarol systems, and elevate their I&R and technical skills at the same time.

We’re in the process of planning this year’s Summit, but we’d really like to know — What do you want to learn about?

We’ve put together a brief survey so you can share your thoughts with us, which we’ll use to ensure the topics addressed in the Summit are suited to our customers’ needs. Don’t miss your chance to share your ideas, the survey will only stay open until the end of the day on Thursday, February 14!

Take the Survey

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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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“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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