Mental Health Association Uses iCarol ReferralQ and Provider Portal To Dispatch Mobile Crisis Teams
The Mental Health Association of Frederick County (MHA) works to build a strong foundation of emotional wellness in its community. MHA’s programs prepare resilient children, secure vulnerable families, help people face crisis together, and support the whole community.
One of MHA’s programs is the Call Center. The call center is open 24/7/365 and is available for crisis intervention and suicide prevention, supportive listening, and to offer callers information and referrals to community services. The call center is one of over 180 centers that answer the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and also serves as a 2-1-1 contact center.
The vast majority of calls can be resolved over the phone, with callers feeling much better and capable of taking next steps to address their problem thanks to supportive listening, referrals, and follow-up or safety planning. For the small percentage of calls where the crisis at hand requires further help immediately, the call center partners with the local Mobile Crisis Team (MCT), operated by a separate organization. For many years, the call center has provided MCT dispatch for callers in need. MCT sends mental health professionals to meet clients on-site to respond to mental health concerns, individuals contemplating suicide, and address other crisis situations.
The COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted the mental health and financial stability of the Frederick community, just as it did to communities worldwide. The call center saw a record increase in call volume, due in part to its participation in COVID-19 response initiatives through its role as a 2-1-1 center and other partnerships with local health authorities to provide information and assistance throughout the Coronavirus health crisis. More than ever, the call center needed efficient ways to administer certain programs and work with their partners, to help their staff and volunteers keep pace with the volume increases, and ensure as many calls as possible could be answered promptly.
At this same time, communities everywhere were also wrestling with how to better respond to crises such as substance abuse, homelessness, and mental health or suicide, that provide alternatives to calling 9-1-1 and receiving a law enforcement response. Again, the community of Frederick was having these same conversations, and in the spring of 2021 the local government announced that the MCT, originally limited in hours of availability, would expand to a 24/7/365 operation. This was made possible by the county government’s decision to divert some funds away from the county sheriff’s office budget, as well as increasing the amount of direct funding from the county government.
The call center had already been dispatching MCT for a number of years, and used iCarol as its solution to document the calls, and conduct the MCT intake and assessment. The process was to email the completed intake form to the MCT and also call the MCT to confirm receipt of the form and imminent dispatch to the scene.
The expansion of MCT’s hours of operation, combined with rising call volume to the call center , required that they implement more efficient workflows that would take fewer steps and reduce time spent by the call center call specialist on the dispatch process. However, this process must ensure that intake forms be shared in a secure format, with no chance of exposing someone’s personal information to unauthorized individuals. The call center needed to dispatch the mobile team more immediately and electronically, to minimize tasks that took specialists away from their desks and unavailable for incoming calls. Finally, they wanted to make it possible for the MCT to update the original intake form with outcome information or final status or disposition about the visit, so that the call center can meet their reporting and quality assurance requirements.
The Solution: iCarol ReferralQ and Provider Portal
The call center enabled iCarol’s ReferralQ and Provider Portal within their existing iCarol system, and built new workflows into their MCT dispatch process. The call specialists would continue to use specialized contact forms to complete their call documentation, assessments, and for those assessed to be appropriate for MCT, an MCT intake form. Upon completion of the intake form, their processes would become more efficient than before, by using the iCarol ReferralQ and Provider Portal.
After qualifying the call for MCT, and completing the intake form, specialists add that a referral was made to their MCT partners using their resource database. Then, they assign the intake form to a ReferralQ dashboard created just for their MCT partnership. Because this call is specifically assigned to MCT and referred to them, MCT responders receive a notification that a referral is waiting for them, and they then sign into the secure Provider Portal to retrieve the intake information. The built-in security of the ReferralQ and Provider Portal tools, and processes of assigning the referral to MCT, means that only authorized MCT staff, and no one else, can see the client’s information.
Upon receiving the referral information in the Provider Portal, MCT staff are then able to change the status to show that they have received the referral, and assign a new status to reflect the change. This way, call center staff are able to know where the client is in the process of receiving MCT, all without having to leave their workstation or remove themselves from the incoming call rotation. Call center staff are assured of a clean handoff and that the client will continue receiving appropriate assistance.
After the MCT visit, MCT staff once again access the client information in the Provider Portal, and add any additional notes about the in-person visit. They also update status again as needed. The information about the original call, the intake, and anything contributed by MCT all exists together in the iCarol system, and so call center staff can show a closed loop of information and outcomes. Call center staff also conduct ongoing follow-up activities with the client by phone, or contact the client to survey their satisfaction for quality assurance purposes.
Expanding Mobile Crisis service hours in the midst of a pandemic, when incoming volume of contacts was at an all-time high, certainly presented a challenge to the MHA. However, it was also a unique opportunity to improve workflows and make dispatch processes more efficient than ever. The support and investment by the local government made it possible for the call center to explore new tools to carry out their work, that would increase both call handling speeds, and the rate at which a client could go from calling to receiving a visit from the Mobile Crisis Team. Call Specialists were better able to keep up with incoming requests because handling and dispatch time for MCT requests were reduced. The security of client information was improved because the electronic means of transmittal and receipt added in additional protections and authorizations related to viewing the intake form. Because information about the client, their situation and status in the process were all available to the call center and MCT, there is better continuity of care for the client. MHA is now exploring other partnerships in the community to expand the use of Provider Portal to better serve area residents.
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