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iCarol Innovators – Your Voice Matters

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!

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

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.

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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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iCarol Webinar: Suicide Prevention through Emergency Department/Crisis Center Partnerships

On Wednesday, October 4th at 1pm EST, iCarol will host a webinar on the topic of Crisis Center/Emergency Department (ED) partnerships, specifically those where crisis centers make follow-up calls to discharged patients who came to the ED presenting with suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Research shows that for about 1 in 5 deaths by suicide, the person had actually visited their local emergency department in the weeks before their death. While hospital EDs can keep a person safe in the short-term and provide referrals to long-term care, they aren’t often the best resource to handle the complex and ongoing mental health and emotional needs of someone who is struggling with thoughts of suicide. Most people who visit an ED for concerns related to suicide are discharged after a very short period of time, and the discharge plan often doesn’t involve ongoing direct contact to check and see how the person is doing following their visit, potentially leaving the patient feeling lost and unsupported.

This is where more and more helplines are stepping in. Crisis Centers across North America have engaged in partnerships with their local emergency department to help provide care for ED visitors or discharged patients in the form of follow-up calls. Because crisis center professionals have the best knowledge, training, and resources to provide ongoing care such as this, EDs will make connections between the ED visitor to the crisis center. From there, crisis centers talk to the patient and make a series of follow-up calls or texts to the visitor to keep them feeling supported and engaged with a safety plan. Crisis centers are also best-equipped to see that a person receives referrals to more long-term mental health care or other needed referrals that can help resolve issues compounding a person’s distress and desire to end their life.

During this hour-long webinar, we’ll invite presenters to discuss first-hand experience of these partnerships:

    Charissa Tvrdy is a Lead Crisis Clinician and Hospital Follow-Up Coordinator at Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners. Ms. Tvrdy is responsible for oversight and project management of RMCP’s Hospital Follow-Up program. She works as a liaison between RMCP and participating Colorado emergency departments. Ms. Tvrdy assists call center staff in the training, implementation, quality assurance and daily operations of the program. Ms. Tvrdy received her Master of Science in Counseling Psychology from The University of Kansas. She has experience working in a call center serving people experiencing behavioral health crisis. Ms. Tvrdy also has clinical experience within a Community Mental Health Center.

    Dr. Michael Allen built the model Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program at Bellevue Hospital. He was chair of the APA’s Task Force on Psych Emergency Services, president of the Am Assoc for Emerg Psychiatry, member the NIH Emergency Medicine Roundtable, a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline steering committee member, a STEP-BD, ED SAFE and PRISM investigator and an author of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s ED Decision Support Guide. He has served as a subject matter expert for the US DOJ Civil Rights Div, CMS, NIMH, the Joint Commission and SAMHSA. He was instrumental in forming the Colorado Suicide Prevention Commission and the Colorado National Collaborative. He is currently Professor of Psychiatry and Emergency Medicine at the Johnson Depression Center, University of Colorado Anschutz Campus and Medical Director of Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners.

    Caitlin Peterson is the Coordinator of Best Practices in Care Transitions for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, working closely with crisis centers, professional organizations, community partners, and mental health providers to support and advocate for follow-up and partnership with crisis centers. Caitlin has worked in the mental health, crisis intervention, and suicide prevention field for over 10 years, 7 of those in various positions, and later manager, of a blended suicide prevention and information and referral hotline. She has a Master of Science degree in Marriage & Family Therapy from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

We hope you can attend — space is limited so please register ASAP if you’re interested in joining the live presentation. For those who can’t join us, we’ll have the recording available on our website at a later date. To learn more about this webinar and to register, click the button below.

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iCarol at the TAIRS Conference

TAIRS

From October 1-3, our Director of Business Development, Polly McDaniel, will head to the Texas AIRS (TAIRS) Professional Development and Education Training Conference in San Antonio, Texas. This year’s gathering is extra special as TAIRS celebrates 40 years of supporting Texas I&R agencies.

In addition to the learning opportunities offered at the TAIRS Conference, this is a great time for us to recognize in person the amazing work the Texas Information and Referral Network accomplished during and following the devastation and flooding in southeast Texas, caused by historic Hurricane Harvey. We are honored to be the software supporting the TIRN network as they assist their neighbors in need.

At the TAIRS conference we’ll be on hand to answer questions, meet and greet members of the Texas Area Information Centers, meet additional information and referral providers from across the state and take part in sessions and conversations that will help us better understand the needs of those providing I&R across Texas so we can continue to provide the best service possible.

You can find out more about the conference here and on their event page. Be sure to follow us on Twitter to follow along with our activities at the conference!

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Tech Talk: What is an API and why should I care?

Increasingly our clients are seeking ways to share data both internally with other tools they use, as well as externally with one or more partners.

An example of connecting internal tools would be a client of ours connect their phone system with iCarol both to facilitate “screen pops” when a call is routed to a particular phone worker and iCarol appears prepopulated with information about that caller, as they answer the phone; as well as to combine the data collected by both systems to answer operational questions like “what is our average handling time for calls related to different help seeker needs?”.

And an example of sharing data externally would be giving access to your resource database so a third party can build a mobile app or a website targeted at a certain sub-population in your area, like immigrants or job seekers.

Enabling these data sharing relationships, whether internally or externally, is where API’s come to the rescue.

An Application Programming Interface (API) allows electronic systems to interact with each other without the need for the direct human intervention. That is, with an API no person needs to direct data traffic between two systems, say via a website or other screen – the systems just talk directly to each other behind the scenes. In this way, the data that resides in the main system can be searched, retrieved and even modified by other authorized computer systems connecting to it.

To do this, a software vendor writes an API and makes it available securely on the internet, and also publishes documentation about how other developers can use it. They can be one-way APIs, also known as “read only” because the software consuming the data from the API cannot modify it. Or they can be two-way APIs, where the consumer software can make modifications, like creating new records, or modifying or deleting existing ones.

At iCarol, we’ve had an API for a number of years now and are actively expanding its capabilities – it is used by quite a number of our clients to enable real-time data transfers both internally and externally. And we also consume quite a few API’s published by other software systems. Some of them enhance iCarol’s capabilities, like Google Maps or tools that let us send and receive SMS messages within iCarol. Others let us push client data to their partners, for example client or call data that needs to transfer into a partner’s electronic medical record systems.

APIs have been around for a long time in the software world, and will only grow in importance in the years to come. We continue to be excited about their possibilities and will certainly be expanding our use of them.

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DMAX Clubs aim to end mental health stigma on college campuses

Did you know that 87% of college students feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities and 39% feel so depressed it is difficult to function? (Source: American College Health Association, National College Health Assessment) DMAX Foundation seeks to improve those statistics by creating social clubs with a mental health focus on college campuses throughout the nation to enable students to talk to each other about how they are doing, and to help each other.

DMAX Foundation was started by Laurie and Lee Maxwell, after the tragic loss of their son, Dan, to suicide at the age of 18. Dan had been plagued with mental and emotional pain for eighteen months, without relief, before he took his life. He tried to get better in every way possible. He and his family saw physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists, tried medications and dietary changes, and conducted tireless research. One thing the Maxwells were not able to do is speak out. It was too difficult to confide in friends and relatives about what was happening inside their family.

Thus DMAX, named in Dan Maxwell’s honor (DMAX was the nickname his teammates gave him), was founded to eliminate stigma and encourage safe and caring conversations about mental and emotional issues in our youth. To accomplish these goals, DMAX is establishing Clubs on college campuses which provide environments for all students to get together and talk about how they are doing, how their friends are doing and how they can help each other. DMAX Club officers get the opportunity to build valuable leadership skills, are trained to recognize mental health emergencies, learn how to listen (versus give therapy), and extend the campus’ mental health resources by making referrals to the Counseling Center. While other college mental health organizations emphasize the importance of having conversations about mental wellness, DMAX is putting it into practice, providing the space and the tools for Conversations That Matter to take place.

DMAX Foundation is currently focused on establishing clubs in the Philadelphia and surrounding areas, with a plan to expand all over the country in the future. DMAX Clubs have been recently established at Penn State University and Drexel University, joining Elon University, which began in spring 2016.

You can help DMAX establish clubs throughout the nation by:

  • Joining DMAX’s mailing list
  • Making a tax-deductible donation
  • Volunteering
  • Attending DMAX events in the Philadelphia area
  • Sponsoring one of its events
  • Connecting DMAX Foundation with schools and students interested in starting DMAX Clubs

For more information about DMAX Foundation and opportunities to get involved, visit www.dmaxfoundation.org

Guest Blogger Kris Kelley serves as the Outreach and Administrative Coordinator for the DMAX Foundation.

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How to Report Speed Issues in iCarol

If you are experiencing issues with your iCarol system that are difficult to describe, where information may not be populating, saving, or loading as quickly as you expect, it can be helpful to complete these 3 diagnostic tests prior to submitting a case to Support. The results of these tests may help us to eliminate local network issues, and find the root cause of the issue faster.

When you submit the case using the iCarol online Case Management Tool, please include the 3 screen shots, the time/date you completed these tests, and what browser you were using.

Test One: Complete a Speed Test

    1. Login to iCarol, as an affected user and reproduce the slowness issue
    2. In a separate browser window/tab, go to www.speedtest.net
    3. Click the “Change Server” link and type Toronto in the search text box
    4. Click on any of the Toronto, ON servers that appear in the list of search results
    5. Click the “GO” button, allow the test to complete and take a screen shot of the results (a full page screen shot is preferred, that will include the browser type and system time.)

Speedtest

Test Two: Complete a Trace Route to iCarol server in Command Prompt

    1. Open the Command Prompt window by clicking the MS Windows Start button, clicking All Programs, clicking Accessories, and then clicking Command Prompt. (A new black background window should open.)
    2. Type in exactly, tracert webapp.icarol.com, and press Enter on your keyboard.
    3. Allow the Trace to complete, and take a screen shot of the results (do not close the window yet.)

Trace Route

To perform Test Two on Mac Computers

    1. Open Safari and enter http://pingtest.net in the Smart Search field.
    2. Click Begin test.
    3. An alert appears saying “Do you want to trust the website www.pingtest.net to use the “Java” plug in? Click Trust and then Run in the Do you want to run this application window.
    4. You should see your IP and ISP name at the bottom left of the globe. Check if this is correct.
    5. Click Being Test.
    For more information go to http://www.macworld.co.uk/how-to/mac/how-test-ping-on-your-mac-3524076/

Test Three: Complete a Ping to the iCarol server in Command Prompt

    1. Use the same Command Prompt window as opened in Test 2
    2. Type in exactly, ping webapp.icarol.com, and press Enter on your keyboard
    3. Allow the Ping to finish, and take a screen shot of the results.

Ping test

To perform Test Three on Mac Computers

In addition to the diagnostic tests above, it is useful to use a timer extension to see exactly where the slowness is occurring. A timer extension will break down the process of loading a page and tell you how long each step is taking. With this detail, you may be able to determine if the slowness is happening on the iCarol side, or if it may be an issue with your computer, internet or network speed.

Most browsers have a timer extension you can download and use. Some browsers may call these “extensions” or “add-ons”. Each browser will have a different name for these extensions or add-ons. For example, Google Chrome’s extension is called “Page load time”. The first step to using a timer extension or add-on is to find and download it. Once this is done, you will usually find the timer extension in the tool bar of your browser.

To use the timer extension to time page loads in iCarol, complete the following steps:

    1. Navigate to the page that is loading slowly
    2. Click the timer extension icon in the tool bar of your browser
    3. You should see a chart or a list of events or actions, and how long each of those events or actions took
    4. In general, it should not take more than 5 seconds to load a page in iCarol.
    The exception is when searching resources, especially if the resource database is very large; some resource searches can take up to 10-20 seconds.
    5. If the total load time for the page is greater than 5-10 seconds, refer to the timer extension chart or list to see where the most time was spent. Each timer extension will call the events or actions by a slightly different name, but there should be enough similarities to recognize the names of most of the events or actions between browsers.

Use the information below to determine if the issue is on iCarol’s side, or if the issue is with the computer, network, or internet service being used:

  • The iCarol servers are responsible for the Request and Response times
  • Slow Redirect, DNS or Connect times may indicate an issue with the internet connection or network being used
  • Slow DOM or Load Event times may indicate issues with the computer itself

If the issue seems to be with your computer, network, or internet connection, please consult with a member of your IT team or your internet service provider.

If the issue seems to be with iCarol’s servers, please take a screenshot of the timer extension results. Then have a designated Support Contact submit a case with the screenshot as an attachment, and an explanation of the slowness that is occurring.

Timer extension test

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Uniting our voices for National Suicide Prevention Week

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day, marking the beginning of National Suicide Prevention Week. During this week, millions of people will be speaking out about the impact suicide has on individuals, families, and communities, raising awareness and promoting messages on how best to prevent suicide. So many caring organizations worldwide will be adding their voices to this important message. In order to make the biggest and deepest impact, it’s helpful to unite around a common theme and messaging to amplify our voices.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention is leading the way with a host of resources and information on their website to help organizations rally around a centralized theme of being there for others, a theme several well-known suicide prevention organizations have been promoting this year.

Be There Campaign

It’s a very simple yet powerful message, and it helps reinforce what we already know: Suicide prevention is everyone’s business, and we can all do something to help prevent suicide. Those of us who have worked at suicide prevention helplines know how effective the simple act of listening is. Just by being a sounding board, a safe place for someone to air their darkest thoughts without facing judgment, you can save a life. When a person knows that someone is willing to listen and offer their help or support and not be scared away by talk of suicide, they feel less isolated and alone with their thoughts, and can envision a better path forward.

In addition to rallying around messages of being there, the Action Alliance also encourages everyone to use #NSPW in their social media posts. This will boost all of our messages and ensures the topic trends online and receives the attention it deserves.

Visit the Action Alliance website for all the materials you need to participate. They have sample social media posts you can use, frames for your Facebook profile pic, and more.

Together we can bring lots of attention to National Suicide Prevention Week, and show people in need that they are loved, supported, and have a place to turn when needed.

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