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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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iCarol End-of-Year Housekeeping Tasks

As the end of 2018 approaches, we want to take the opportunity to provide some housekeeping tasks for you to review. We know how busy you are every day of the year, and 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 another exciting year!

    Review Draft Contact Forms

    It’s a good idea to designate a user with appropriate permissions to review all Contact Forms in DRAFT 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 import 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, read this related help article.

    Draft call report forms

    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. It helps keep your forms tidy, and reduces time spent by your volunteers, if these 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, read this related help article.

    Disable inactive call report form filter

    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. 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, read this related help article.

    Call Report Editor Use as filter in statistics

    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, read this related help article.

    Disable volunteer access

    Review Organization Contacts

    During the year your designated Billing or Support Contacts may have left your organization, but you forgot to update your iCarol system accordingly with this information. To avoid unpaid invoices or delays in sending Support requests, it’s good to occasionally make sure the proper contacts are assigned to these roles. Read this help article to learn more about your organization’s designated contacts, and how and why to keep them up to date.

    Designate contacts

    Backup Resources

    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 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.

    Extract data

    Backup Contact Records

    It’s also a good idea to create an offline, back-up copy of your Contact Records for your users to access in case your organization ever experiences problems with 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, 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. 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.

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

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

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

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

Register Now

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iCarol strengthens security through enhanced user password requirements

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

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

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

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The right service at the right time – using time restrictions in your Public Web Forms

There’s a lot to like about iCarol’s Flexible Public Web Forms (also known as Online Forms). You can do so much with this versatile tool that is, at its core, a public facing version of the same Contact Forms that iCarol users access within their systems to log interactions with the people they serve.

In case you’re asking “What’s an iCarol Public Web Form?” These forms are Contact Forms hosted in your iCarol system that can be enabled for the public to use. You’ll link to them when you wish to offer services on your website such as:

  • Intake forms
  • Volunteer applications
  • Satisfaction surveys
  • Self-assessments or screenings
  • Contact requests

Submitted forms are delivered to your iCarol system where you can then follow up yourself, securely send them to another agency if necessary, and of course since they are Contact Records you can export the data collected or run reports on the data within iCarol. Want to know more? Skip to the bottom of this blog post for even more information about Public Web Forms.

Enabling Time Restrictions.

If you have a service that is only available during certain days of the week, or certain hours of the day, then you may not want your Public Web Form open and available to be filled out on your website outside of those service hours. For example, a Mobile Crisis Intake Form — For better communication and clarity, and to reduce confusion or frustration, you would likely want to keep this form from appearing as an option on your website if the service was currently closed and the web visitor won’t receive a timely response.

Public Web Form time restriction is an option that allows you to make a form available only during the times you choose. The form is turned on or off based on whether or not you have an Online Form shift that is actively staffed at that time.

Add shift for Public Web Form

If there is no shift at that time, or if the shift is open and unstaffed, the form won’t be active and available on the website. If a service is going to become unavailable soon, a warning message and countdown timer can appear for any visitors who may be in the middle of filling a form. There is also the option for custom messaging to appear when the service is unavailable, which could include information such as alternative options for the visitor to pursue in absence of the target service (e.g. a number to call) or more information on the service’s normal hours of operation, and the next time web visitors can expect to see the form on and available.

By only having these Public Web Forms open when the target service is available, and guiding web visitors to other alternative services instead, people in need are directed to the right service at the time.

More Information

Why is it important to offer intakes and other forms on your website? Well for one, the people in your community are craving more communication options between themselves and the services they need to access. Whether out of convenience, personal preference, or greater ease of access for those with disabilities, diversifying available communication channels reduces barriers and opens doors for more people to receive the services they are entitled to, and get the help they need.

Using the forms doesn’t just help the people who use your services, but it helps you and your staff as well. You’ll be able to increase staff productivity since these forms can now be filled out directly by the user online, where they may previously have required manual staff time and assistance to the client. You’ll also be able to capitalize on potential volunteer interest — convert volunteer prospects into applicants easily, no more waiting to receive their application through email or snail mail. You’ll also shorten the recruitment and training life cycle, getting volunteers online faster. And because you can now direct so many clients to fill out their satisfaction surveys online, you can increase your outcome data, meet your goals, and get the funding you need.

Public Web Forms can be tailored to meet your needs in a variety of ways, including:

  • Customize the look and feel of the form to fit with your website and branding, using Cascading Style Sheets to give your form a highly stylized look. You may include your logo, choose your fonts, colors, and more for a cohesive fit within your website.
  • Edit the fillable fields and text on the form with our Contact Form Editing tools.
  • Pre-screen clients with questions before the user can proceed to the rest of the form.
  • Ensure data integrity with an integrated Captcha, protecting you from false or spam/bot submissions.
  • Enforce form timeouts and warn users of an impending timeout to make sure a form isn’t kept open for too long before submission, protecting the integrity of the data as well as your user’s privacy.
  • Notify key staff members by email when a form is submitted.
  • Analyze, track, export, and report on the information collected in the forms. Once the Public Web Form is submitted by the user, it becomes the equivalent to a finished Contact Record in your iCarol system.

To get started using these forms in your iCarol system, contact our Support Team. If you’re not yet an iCarol user, we’d be happy to speak to you about this and other solutions we offer. Please contact us.

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iCarol to attend the International Conference on Forensic Nursing Science and Practice

From Wednesday, October 24 through Saturday, October 27, our Solutions Expert Team Lead, Eliisa Laitila, will attend the International Conference on Forensic Nursing Science and Practice in Reno, Nevada. This conference is in association with the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

What is “Forensic Nursing” and what sets this field apart from nurses working in other areas? According to the International Association of Forensic Nurses:

    “A forensic nurse is a Registered or Advanced Practice nurse who has received specific education and training. Forensic nurses provide specialized care for patients who are experiencing acute and long-term health consequences associated with victimization or violence, and/or have unmet evidentiary needs relative to having been victimized or accused of victimization. In addition, forensic nurses provide consultation and testimony for civil and criminal proceedings relative to nursing practice, care given, and opinions rendered regarding findings. Forensic nursing care is not separate and distinct from other forms of medical care, but rather integrated into the overall care needs of individual patients.”

Forensic nurses practice in many industries that iCarol serves and they regularly engage with patients who have suffered sexual violence, intimate partner or domestic violence, abuse (from children to the aging/elderly), and those who have been victims of a crime. This field of nursing demands a great deal of skill on many fronts. Forensic nurses must not only assess and meet the medical needs of their patient, but they are also tasked with restoring the individual’s feeling of safety and are often one of the first professionals to help that individual through a traumatic event. Their delicate handling of sensitive situations plays a large role in patient recovery.

The conference sessions will fall into a variety of tracks including Intimate Partner Violence, SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner), Pediatrics, and Psychiatry and Corrections. We’re excited to be attending this conference for the first time and eager to have Eliisa share learned knowledge with our team so we can directly apply it to our work with the organizations that employ or frequently interact with forensic nurses.

“I am excited to learn more about this side of the support model that many of our clients work directly in, or coordinate with nurses to do. It will be interesting to hear more from the forensic nurse perspective, as well as overall leading thoughts on how to best support survivors, and how to overcome challenges when doing so.” — Eliisa Laitila, iCarol Solutions Expert Team Lead

To learn more about Forensic Nursing, specifically those who conduct SANE exams, check out the video below created by the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

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iCarol at the National Crisis Center Conference

From Wednesday, October 17 through Friday, October 19, Rachel Wentink, Vice President, Operations, and Mary Kruger, Client Training Coordinator, will attend the National Crisis Center Conference in St. Louis, Missouri.

The conference theme is “Gateway to Gold: Setting the Standard” with a focus on best practices for optimum success of the attending organizations and their clients. This year’s conference will offer sessions in two tracks focused either on Systems or Centers, with several workshops that satisfy both.

There’s no better group to speak to best practices than the two entities presenting this conference, CONTACT USA (CUSA) and the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors (NASCOD). Both organizations have a phenomenal history of supporting crisis work and we recommend considering membership for your service if you are a helpline, warmline, crisis center, suicide prevention service, or similar organization. By joining them you’ll discover fantastic networking and knowledge sharing from caring individuals who can relate to your day-to-day joys and challenges as a manager or executive director of a not-for-profit. Find out more about CUSA membership here and NASCOD membership here.

Our history with this group and conference 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.

As with all conferences we attend, we welcome the opportunity to connect with old friends and new ones. We’re eager to hear about your latest projects and discuss ways iCarol can support you and the needs of your community. Both Mary and Rachel will be on hand throughout the conference to answer your questions and talk about how iCarol can help. We look forward to seeing you!

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iCarol Attending the National Sexual Assault Conference

From August 29th through 31st, Polly McDaniel, Director of Business Development, and Eliisa Laitila, Solutions Expert Team Lead, will both attend the 2018 National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC) in Anaheim, CA.

We first attended this national conference in 2017, though organizations that address sexual violence and help sexual assault survivors have long been a part of the iCarol family. Our first experience at NSAC last year was exciting and inspiring; we were thrilled by the number of talented and passionate advocates we met. They do invaluable work toward awareness, breaking the silence around rape and sexual assault, preventing violence, and helping survivors heal. In the year that followed we welcomed a number of new organizations serving this space into the iCarol network of users. We’re eager to attend the conference again this year so we can meet more people doing this amazing work, reconnect with those we met earlier, and show everyone some of the latest solutions we offer to enhance service delivery to survivors.

So, if you’re going to be at the NSAC conference, please stop by our booth in the Platinum 5 exhibit room and say “hello.” We’re looking forward to the opportunity to answer your questions and hear more about the amazing work you’re doing for sexual violence survivors in your community and beyond.

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What is the iCarol Assessment Gauge, and How is it Used?

The iCarol Assessment Gauge is a highly configurable feature that is included with your core subscription to iCarol. It is most commonly used to assess two different situations: Eligibility or Risk.

What is it?

The Assessment Gauge is a series of questions you can embed into your iCarol Contact Form. Potential answers to each question are presented in a matrix format. Behind the scenes, the answers for each question have a weighted score. As a specialist goes through the assessment and marks an appropriate answer, these answers help form an overall quantitative measurement of either risk or eligibility, depending on how the form is being used.

The way you use and setup the Assessment Gauge is entirely up to your organization. Some examples of situations in which your organization might make use of the Assessment Gauge could be, but are not limited to the following:

Eligibility Assessment Examples:

  • Follow-Up Eligibility
  • Health Insurance Enrollment Eligibility
  • Tax Assistance Eligibility
  • Mobile Crisis Team Referral Eligibility

Risk Assessment Examples:

  • Mental Health Intake Priority
  • Suicide Risk Assessment
  • Disaster Risk Assessment
  • Domestic Violence Assessment
  • Homeless Diversion Program Assessment

This feature has been available for several years in iCarol, however we have made updates to the tool with the Contact Forms V5 Upgrade, including:

  • More user friendly with an updated look
  • Faster response as you answer questions
  • Scrolls with the page instead of being stationed in the top right corner

    You can choose to add the Assessment Gauge directly within an existing contact form:

    Or create a new related form for assessments that only take place during a sub-set of your interactions.

    You could also add the assessment in both contexts; one on the original or “parent” form, and others on related forms. It’s important to note that there can only be one assessment on each iCarol Contact Form.

    How it works

    As users answer the assessment questions, the gauge moves up or down depending on how the answers are weighted, something decided and set up by your organization. Below is an example of how a set of questions in a suicide assessment may add up to create the gauge shown below. Based on the weights of the answers, this person was assessed as being very high risk.

    To learn more about this feature and learn how to get started with setting it up in your system, read this help article and have a designated Support Contact from your organization submit a case requesting assistance.

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  • You’re invited to join our next Enhancement Review Webinar

    At iCarol, we’re constantly rolling our new features to our software, as well as enhancements to existing features. To ensure you’re up-to-date on all the latest you can do using iCarol, we regularly hold Enhancement Review Webinars so we can share information about those enhancements with you.

    Our next webinar is coming up soon — July 17, 2018 at 3pm EDT. We hope you can join us! For those who would like to attend but cannot, we will have a recording available.

    Learn More and Register

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