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 prevention, education and awareness.
So we can continue to stay ahead of the topics that most impact iCarol’s customers, on Wednesday Dana will attend the Crisis Continuum pre-conference program, which concludes with a session on network updates and future directions for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network.
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. At this year’s update we’re anticipating the latest news from the 988 transition plan and how that will affect members of the Lifeline network. We’re also closely following the continuing conversations on how communities are changing their practices around responding to mental health emergencies and similar crises, with a shift towards crisis intervention teams and other professionals leading the response as opposed to law enforcement.
These discussions 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 and crisis centers everywhere, providing the tools they need to do their life-saving work.
If you plan to be at the AAS Conference, please stop by our virtual booth to download our new guides and materials, including a brand new ebook on choosing software for crisis intervention and suicide prevention services. We’ll also be available for virtual meetings at your convenience to answer your questions, or have conversations about your challenges or projects and explore how iCarol can be of assistance.
As 2020 comes to a close and we look forward to 2021, I like to reflect on the accomplishments of the past year. While they may have looked and felt different this year, they are accomplishments none the less.
I have had the opportunity to communicate with many of you this year, but for those I have not yet met, I joined iCarol as the Vice President of Operations in March of this year. Many of you know or have spoken previously to Rachel Wentink, who has served in this role for 5 years. Rachel is still working with us but is working part-time as she moves to semi-retirement. As I transitioned into this role from another Harris Business Unit, it struck me right away the absolute commitment and dedication that is a culture within the industries we serve. I love the sense of community that I experienced while attending various conferences this year, which says a lot given they were all held remotely. I look forward to “meeting” many more of you in 2021 and learning of the plans you have or need help with to drive towards the vision for your organizations.
While 2020 brought many hardships, I have been trying to focus on the positives and the accomplishments that we have achieved this year at iCarol.
We have had the privilege of welcoming many new organizations into the iCarol family, as well as continue to serve our current valued clients. Most of what we do is driven from input from our iCarol client family. We seek information and insights from all of you to guide us in what we continue to offer in iCarol. As a result, we have made many code changes that turned out 646 different features and bug fixes throughout the year. This included some rather large developments like the Referral Q and Provider Portal, as well as developments such as our Contact Record API updates. We have also focused our development efforts this year to continue to evolve security to better secure your data. A couple of these additions are the audit log and lock box enhancements, in addition to infrastructure security changes that were made in October. We discussed these enhancements on our Customer Webinar held on December 9. If you were not able to join us, you can access the recording through the iCarol Admin Dashboard or Help Center and watch it at your convenience. We look forward to sharing more of the accomplishments that our Tech Team has turned out in 2020 at our State of iCarol webinar in January. Details on the webinar will be coming soon, and we hope to see all of you there!
Early this year we moved our Support ticketing system to a new platform in an effort to better support all of you. This move has allowed us to better track support needs and streamline our internal processes. This was a large undertaking, as is any new system, but we believe it was time well spent and encourage feedback from all of you. One way we would love to hear from you is on the survey that is provided at the end of each support ticket. We have seen an increasing number of responses, and I would encourage those of you who bypass it to please take a few seconds and provide your feedback so we can do better.
I have heard many people utter the same sentiment, that the end of 2020 cannot come soon enough. It has been a challenging year. The impact of COVID-19 has had a profound impact on everyone, none more than all of you — those that assist help seekers struggling with the changes it has brought to a once normal life, while getting used to a remote working culture that many of you were not accustomed to yourselves, and finding a way to manage the increased volume of contacts at the same time. What you have accomplished this year has been nothing short of remarkable, and from all of us at iCarol we want to sincerely thank all of you for being the light in the darkness for so many this year.
Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year from all of us at iCarol.
The end of the year is fast approaching, and it’s been unlike any year before. We know how busy you are every day of the year, especially this year, but it’s time to take a moment and think about setting yourself up for success for the year ahead with some iCarol housekeeping. Even if you already have processes in place for these tasks, getting them done might fall to the bottom of your to-do list sometimes. Now is a good time to review these housekeeping tasks to help you get the most out of your iCarol system, while you’re getting ready for a new year.
Review Draft Contact Forms
It’s a good idea to designate a user with appropriate permissions to review all Contact Forms still in DRAFT status and ensure they’re either submitted or deleted by the end of the year. This is important because any Contact Forms in draft mode aren’t included in Statistics or Data Exports reports, so you could be missing important reporting data if forms documenting completed calls are left in draft mode. And erroneous drafts can clutter up your draft list, making it harder for your staff to see the drafts that actually need to be reviewed and completed. To learn more about draft Contact Records, open our Help Center and read this related help article.
Set Obsolete Contact Record Custom Fields To “Inactive” Status
The information you need to collect on your Contact Forms may periodically change. For example, perhaps a project your helpline participates in ends, and you no longer need to collect that piece of data. Or, as we’ve seen a lot this year, you need to collect new data in response to a new contract, or community response to an event or disaster. It helps to keep your forms tidy, and reduces time spent by your volunteers, if any unnecessary fields are hidden from the form entirely. This cleanup can be done at any time, but the end of the year is a perfect time to review the relevancy of your form’s fields. To learn more, open our Help Center and read this related help article.
Disable Inactive Custom Fields in Contact Forms from Appearing in Statistics Call Content Filters
If you’ve made changes to your Contact Forms, and set any custom fields to ‘inactive’ because they were no longer being used, now is a good time to review those inactive custom fields, and determine if the setting to ‘Use as a filter in Statistics’ should be disabled, too. If you no longer need to run reports on this information, it may help to have that filter removed from the list entirely. This way, your reporting staff will only see applicable filters when applying them to reports, saving them time as they browse through the list of filters. To learn more, open our Help Center and read this related help article.
Disable Vols-Staff from Accessing iCarol
It’s likely you had users leave your organization throughout the past year for any number of reasons. Even if you have a process in place already for what to do when users leave your organization, now is a good time to review your Vols-Staff profiles to ensure you’ve disabled users from accessing iCarol, when appropriate. This not only keeps them from accessing data they are no longer authorized to have, but also ensures they won’t be called or emailed by your active volunteers for help covering a shift. To learn more, open the iCarol Help Center and read this related help article.
It’s best practice to periodically create a backup file of your Resources, in case you need to access them offline for any reason. These files can then be especially helpful if your organization experiences problems with power loss or periodic disconnect of you internet connection, but you are still able to handle interactions (i.e. take phone calls, or handle walk-in requests) and provide referrals. You can create this backup file using our standard Resources Data Export tool, or even better, use the Specialized Exports of Resources to Word/Excel feature if your organization is subscribed to it, which provides even more flexibility in how these exports are presented and organized. Use the links above to read the related help articles to learn more about each tool to create a backup of your Resources.
Backup Contact Records
It’s also a good idea to create an offline version of your Contact Records for your users to access in case your organization ever experiences problems with power loss or loss of internet connection. Depending on the complexity of your forms, you may wish to simply save a printable version of your Contact Forms for your users to print out and use to document interactions during the power loss, or for more complex Contact Forms you may wish to transpose your Contact Forms into an editable document so your users can fill out the form on the computer in instances of internet outage. Some of our users even create paper copies for use in the event of a full power outage. Then, once internet connection is re-established, you should have a process in place to enter the data into iCarol so the interactions are included in statistical reporting.
It’s likely your organization already has processes in place to complete most of these tasks throughout the year. But if you don’t, now might be a good time to consider if you want to develop any processes for the new year to help you stay on track with completing these tasks on a regular basis so you’re optimizing your iCarol system.
Crisis Call Centers are no strangers to stressful, high-impact work environments—but what happens when the world as we know it is turned upside down by a global pandemic? Join us as iCarol hosts Travis Atkinson of TBD Solutions to discuss the results of two national surveys administered to behavioral health crisis workers that shed light on the state of crisis services and what communities need to be prepared for to assure people experiencing a psychiatric emergency can access high-quality care.
When: Tuesday, December 8
Time: 2pm EST
After joining the webinar, attendees will:
Understand the function of a healthy crisis continuum and the impact of system capacity issues on overall coordination
Learn the most pressing issues facing crisis service providers of all types during the pandemic
Identify strategies for creatively combating system challenges to achieve the desired goals of timely and accessible crisis services.
Travis Atkinson, MA-LPC
For the past 10 years, Travis has worked in both clinical and managerial roles in behavioral health. Through these experiences, he espouses the value of a healthy and functioning behavioral health care system, the power of data to drive decision‐making, and the importance of asking the right questions. While maintaining a broad vision for excellence and leadership, Travis has sought out best practices for behavioral health care services through research and connecting with fellow providers at a local and national level. He is an excellent training instructor, coach, meeting facilitator, conference presenter, and host of The Crisis Podcast.
iCarol recently welcomed Parents Anonymous® to our family of customers. Founded in 1969, Parents Anonymous® delivers meaningful parent leadership, effective mutual support, Successful Shared Leadership®, and long-term personal growth and change for parents, children and youth, through their numerous programs.
Parents Anonymous® adopted iCarol software for use in their National Parent Helpline, which provides parents with emotional support from trained Advocates, to help them become empowered and stronger parents. Parents Anonymous® also operates the California Parent & Youth Helpline® which was launched in partnership with California Governor Gavin Newsom as part of his initiative to address the impacts of COVID-19.
As parents navigate new and difficult challenges, Parents Anonymous® has expanded the helpline’s hours of operation and the types of helpline services available to meet parents’ needs while coping with the impacts of COVID-19. The iCarol software has helped Parents Anonymous® carefully collect critical data that enables them to deliver services and conduct necessary reporting. They are using iCarol’s integrated SMS/Texting capabilities to meet parents on the convenient communication channels they need most while kids’ normal routines are disrupted and parents are juggling varied and competing responsibilities. Parents Anonymous® has made it even easier for parents to reach them by text-enabling their existing, well-known national helpline number, allowing parents to text the same familiar number that is used for voice calls. And connecting parents with the resources and referrals they need is now a streamlined process, regardless of whether a parent reaches them by phone or SMS/Texting, thanks to iCarol’s integrated resource and referral database.
Now, more than ever, parents need emotional support, education, and information, and so we are honored and proud to be working with this premier family strengthening organization. For more information about Parents Anonymous® visit www.parentsanonymous.org.
Guest Blogger Josh Siegel is a PhD Candidate at the University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on service provider well-being. After earning a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona, he moved to Amsterdam, where he obtained a Master’s degree.
Guest blogger views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of CharityLogic/iCarol, or iCarol’s parent company, Harris Computer Systems.
Child helplines offer support and information to children for a wide variety of issues such as abuse and violence, bullying, sexuality, family, homelessness, health and discrimination. As such, child helplines fulfill the United Nations mandate that all children be heard. In 2017, child helplines in 146 countries received over 24 million contacts from children in need of care and protection, and these numbers are rising rapidly. To help meet this growing demand, helplines have introduced online chat as another method of communication.
To perform well in this challenging and evolving context, helplines invest a substantial part of their budget into training volunteers extensively on how to provide social support to each child in the form of instrumental (e.g. advice) and emotional (e.g. empathy) support. Like many other non-governmental organizations, child helplines face the challenges of limited resources and volunteer turnover.
Volunteers at child helplines play an important role in providing support for children, so keeping them satisfied during encounters is crucial to continue helping children. The purpose of our study was to understand how children’s perceptions of instrumental and emotional support influence volunteer encounter satisfaction, and whether this effect is moderated by a volunteer’s previous encounter experience and levels of interpersonal and service-offering adaptiveness.
From discussions with child helplines, I learned that volunteer turnover is a common concern. The goal of the research was learning how to retain volunteers by keeping them satisfied in their roles. The academic literature about helplines and counseling has found sources of volunteer satisfaction like personal development, and social support from colleagues. However, I was surprised to find that little academic research has explored how volunteers may derive satisfaction from their interactions with children. Since volunteers spend a majority of their shifts talking with children, it seemed like a good place to investigate.
Summary of findings:
When a volunteer feels dissatisfied after a chat with a child, how does this experience affect the volunteer’s next chat?
What was really interesting in this study, is that we were able to collect data from both the child and the volunteer after each chat that they had. This allowed us to understand how a child’s perceptions of the chat influenced the volunteer’s experience. Let me explain what we found.
When volunteers had a chat that they experienced as less satisfying, they felt more satisfied with the next chat, especially when they were able to provide the next child with information and referrals. In our study, we call this providing “instrumental support” and we asked the children the extent to which they felt they received this type of support from the helpline volunteer (children’s perceptions).
The other type of social support we looked into was emotional support. This is like active listening and just trying to help children feel better without directly trying to solve their problems. Unlike instrumental support, providing emotional support in the next chat did not improve volunteer satisfaction after a less satisfying chat.
We think that volunteers might provide instrumental support to feel better. When you’re feeling down, you can feel better by assisting someone because it feels good to help.
We also asked volunteers to rate their own “interpersonal adaptiveness.” It indicates how easy it is for volunteers to adjust how they communicate with each child. For instance, they might change their vocabulary to match a child’s or adjust their personality based on what they think the child needs. We found that those volunteers who feel they are good in interpersonal adaptiveness, were more satisfied when providing instrumental support. Another thing that volunteers do is adapt the support they provide to each child. For some volunteers, it is easier to customize the information or referrals to specifically fit each child’s situation. This is referred to as “service-offering adaptiveness” in our paper. We thought that this would mean some volunteers are better able to detect cues from children. And in doing so, their satisfaction would be more dependent on the cues they picked up from each child. However, we found the opposite. Our results showed that satisfaction for volunteers with higher “service-offering adaptiveness” was actually less affected by providing instrumental support.
Based on our findings, what can helplines do to help volunteers remain satisfied during their encounters with children?
Finding: Volunteers are more satisfied when children believe they received lots of instrumental support.
Suggested Action: Volunteers should have easy access to the helpline’s resources in order to provide the best information, advice, and referrals to children.
Finding: It is important to be aware that a volunteer’s experience with one encounter influences the next encounter.
Suggested Action: There should be sufficient support for volunteers after a less satisfying encounter. We recommend a feedback tool that would help volunteers to “cool off” after one of these chats or even allow a colleague or manager to help volunteers with the next chat.
Finding: Since volunteer satisfaction increases when children are happy with the support provided, it is important that volunteers are able to detect children’s perceptions.
Suggested Action: To help volunteers understand children’s perceptions throughout a chat, we propose that a monitoring system would be helpful. Such a system could highlight keywords in the chat that would signal whether the volunteer should provide more instrumental support and/or emotional support.
Further reading and sourcing: Siegel, J. and van Dolen, W. (2020), “Child helplines: exploring determinants and boundary conditions of volunteer encounter satisfaction”, Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSM-05-2019-0200
Call for collaboration:
The project I am currently working on investigates how helpline counselors manage multiple live chats / SMS conversations simultaneously and how doing so can affect their wellbeing. My goal is to identify ways for enhancing counselor wellbeing by determining how and when it is best to handle more than one interaction simultaneously in order to prevent either feeling overloaded or bored.
I am looking for a helpline with a focus on serving youth and children that would be willing to help me collect data from volunteers and counselors about their experiences with each interaction. I would also like to talk with helpline managers and counselors about their experiences, concerns, and ideas to find out how else we can collaborate. In addition to an academic article as output of this research, I would write a management report for the helpline which discusses the findings and recommendations for helpline managers.
If you are interested in collaborating, please contact me at email@example.com
We are excited to welcome Mental Health America of Virginia (MHAV) to the iCarol family of customers. The oldest mental health advocacy organization in Virginia, MHAV works closely with service providers and peers to complement an individual’s recovery from trauma, mental illness, or addiction. MHAV provides a variety of programs to the community, including a Warm Line telephone service for anyone in Virginia who needs a listening ear or wants resource information.
MHAV chose iCarol to help them improve service delivery and administrative workflows within their warm line program. Using iCarol, they can now consolidate their documents, files, and referrals to a single system, allowing their warm line staff and volunteers easier and more efficient access to the information they need to serve consumers of the program. They plan to enhance their team cohesion as a result of having all their communications being carried out within iCarol rather than using a number of disparate external programs. The categorization and searching capabilities within the built-in resource/referral database will enable warm line staff and volunteers to quickly find the best resources for callers.
iCarol is also helping MHAV meet unprecedented demands placed on their agency by COVID-19, when mental health and wellbeing is a paramount concern to everyone. The global pandemic has required them to be able to staff up as needed to meet growing demand for emotional support, and with iCarol they’ll be able to more quickly onboard new volunteers.
Of their partnership with iCarol, MHAV staff and leadership shared:
“The warm line team loves using the iCarol platform to do their work. They rave about how user friendly it is to complete Contact Forms, view shift schedules, communicate with each other using the internal chat feature and the ease of engaging in text message conversations with people who prefer texting support. As the warm line manager, I love using the platform for the same reasons including the ease of running reports in real-time, viewing and providing feedback to the team, making schedule changes and being able to get support from the iCarol team quickly. The service has enabled us to better serve Virginians with the support they need during these extremely difficult times.”
— Cheryl DeHaven, MHAV Warm Line Manager
“I enjoyed working with the iCarol team throughout the implementation process – very professional, timely, and accommodating.”
—Bruce N. Cruser MSW, Executive Director
To learn more about Mental Health America of Virginia, visit www.mhav.org.
The latest release to the iCarol web application includes a number of useful enhancements to Contact Forms!
One of the text-entry field types available on iCarol Contact Forms, used to document information about client interactions, is the Date field.
As part of the Contact Form editing tools, iCarol Admins and others with Contact Form Version editing permissions can now opt to have a calculated duration appear on the Contact Record, measured in their choice of Days, Weeks, Months, or Years, alongside the date that was entered.
While the most common use of the Date field is to record a person’s date of birth, there are a number of uses for this field, for example one could use it to note the date of a particular event related to the interaction or person’s need. Therefore, the calculated duration could refer to anything that may be of use to an organization—A person’s age in years, months spent without stable housing, weeks since a job loss, or days since someone was victimized in a crime, etc.
Calculated Duration allows Contact Specialists to quickly note the length of time passing since the entered date, which could influence the way they respond to the situation and provide helpful information that can be useful when providing support, referrals, safety planning, and more.
Area Median Income
iCarol Admins and others with Contact Form Version editing permissions can now edit their Contact Forms to include a table noting household sizes, and the corresponding local Area Median Income (AMI) amount for each household size. Once the local AMI table information is entered, related text entry fields can be added to the Contact Form. When documenting a client interaction, the specialist can enter the individual’s household size and annual income, which will result in a AMI% being calculated and shown on the form. This information is useful when determining an individual or family’s eligibility to participate in certain programs or receive assistance.
Contact Form History of Changes
Each time a change is made to a Contact Record, iCarol will automatically record who made the change, when this change was made, and information about what the change entailed. The History of Changes will be visible on the finished Contact Record, providing an audit trail for those who want to closely track these changes.
iCarol Customers can obtain setup and other instructions and information on these enhancements within the iCarol Help Center.
If you are not yet using iCarol but would like to learn more about these and other enhancements, please contact us.
In May, our Support Team began offering monthly training webinars. These training sessions will be consistently held on the third Wednesday of each month at 2pm EDT.
Our topic for July 15, 2020 at 2pm EDT is Advanced Reporting: Statistics – Analysis Area.
The goal of this training is to help iCarol users:
Understand what data is included in each Chart Type in Analysis area
Learn how to use the Filters and Tools available in the Analysis area, including:
Call (Contact) Content Filters
Total Distinct Calls
Click here to see Contact Records that match these filters
Saved Chart Type
Drilling into charts
Exporting chart data to csv files
Consider different use cases for the various Chart Types, Filters, and Tools available
The Monthly Support Trainings are available exclusively to iCarol customers. To sign up, please sign into your iCarol system and navigate to the iCarol Help Center, where the registration link is provided in the Announcements area.
It’s important to us that our customers still have the opportunity to connect with us, receive training, and have the option to participate in a user group session, even if this year we can’t hold the event in person.
Our first initiative to provide that continuity — the user group portion of our conference will become a virtual user group session — is now just two weeks away! The session will occur on Thursday, June 11 at 2pm Eastern time.
This virtual user group session is your chance to hear about the latest improvements and enhancements to iCarol, learn what we have planned for implementation in the coming months, and discuss and provide feedback to the iCarol Product Management team on what features you’d like to see implemented in the future. All customers or those exploring iCarol for potential use at their organization are welcome to attend.
Virtual User Group Exclusive: Attendees of this session will be the first to hear about a major feature release coming in Q4 of 2020! You won’t want to miss it!
During this session we will:*
Review released features and enhancements from the past year
Share features and enhancements in progress and coming soon
Discuss iCarol strategy and priorities
Invite your industry expertise and votes on top ideas
Share a sneak peek at an all new, major feature release coming in Q4 of 2020!