After fifty years of serving the sector as the Alliance of Information & Referral Systems (AIRS), the organization has rebranded the organization as Inform USA to better reflect its commitment to its mission and members. The change was announced at its 50th Anniversary Celebration on the evening of July 31 at the organization’s annual conference in Orlando, Florida.
Among the reasons for the name change, Inform USA more closely aligns the organization with its Canadian counterpart and frequent partner and collaborator, InformCanada. The chat bubbles seen in the new logo visually represent the exchange of information its membership provides to the consumers and constituents they serve.
In the announcement, InformUSA explained the balance of the need to preserve the legacy and good works of the organization over the past 50 years, with needed changes around technology, access, and modernization. The organization’s overall mission remains the same, however members are promised greater ease of access to membership benefits, networking, and information via the new and improved website and Member Compass.
The iCarol team is very excited to see our friends at Inform USA take these steps to build a bright future for everyone in the I&R industry. We can’t wait to see what’s next, and offer our sincere congratulations and support!
iCarol is proud to sponsor the upcoming Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) Discovery Conference in Orlando, Florida from July 31 through August 2, 2023.
The conference is extra special this year because it will mark a milestone 50 years of AIRS. This is a huge accomplishment definitely worth celebrating. So much has changed in the field of Information and Referral in the last 50 years! What constitutes information and referral services has greatly expanded, as have the types of needs communities experience and request from service providers. The industry started with virtually no technology usage, with organizations managing resource databases and records mostly on paper. Today these agencies have access to technologies, databases, and other tools available both to curate resource and referral information, as well as connect with consumers and document information about their needs both met and met, service gaps, social determinants of health, and much more! iCarol is delighted to be a solution that these organizations use to carry out their work.
And of course, a recent challenge the I&R industry faced was COVID-19. Not only did information and referral agencies encounter an influx of inquiries from an anxious community desperately seeking reliable information and guidance during a scary time, but these agencies themselves were living it, too — pivoting their services and staff to work remotely while facing higher volumes than ever. Clearly, this industry and AIRS as leader in it has seen and done a lot in 50 years, and deserves a moment to pause and celebrate this incredible achievement. We’re excited to be in Orlando celebrating alongside them.
Attend iCarol’s Customer Conference on Sunday
For us, our time in Orlando will start just before the conference officially kicks off, when iCarol hosts our own Customer Conference on Sunday, July 30. Starting at 9:00am we’ll welcome both current and prospective customers to join us for a day of learning and discussion, as well as a full user group session that will help influence iCarol’s development roadmap in the coming years. For information about our customer conference and to register, please visit this page.
Come see us in the Exhibit Hall!
Once the conference officially kicks off, iCarol will be present at our booth in the exhibit hall. Please stop by to chat with us; we’d love to hear about what’s going on at your organization, what projects you have in the works, and if there’s anything we can assist you with. We’ll have some fun giveaway items to share, along with material that shares information on iCarol and the solutions we provide.
Join our main conference session co-hosted by 211 Maryland!
Finally, we are extremely excited to co-present one of the workshop sessions at the conference on Monday, July 31 at 11:30am. Join iCarol’s Senior Product Manager, Crystal McEachern, and President and CEO of 211 Maryland, Quinton Askew, will share “No One Left Behind: A Case Study of Maryland’s Care Coordination Program.” The workshop will explore how 211 Maryland worked with their Department of Health and iCarol to create a process where those visiting emergency departments for mental or behavioral health reasons could access care coordination through 211 Maryland to better connect them with resource that will address the mental or behavioral health needs as well as their social determinants of health.
We wish everyone heading to Florida safe and easy travels, we we look forward to seeing you at AIRS Discovery!
Each year, February 11th is celebrated as 2-1-1 day throughout North America.
2-1-1 is an easy-to-remember three digit number, but unlike 4-1-1 for directory assistance or 9-1-1 for life-threatening emergencies, the focus of 2-1-1 is to provide people with comprehensive information and referral to various human services in their communities.
Rather than spend hours of frustration going it alone calling around to various agencies or surfing the web, help-seekers can make 2-1-1 their first call for assistance and speak to a trained specialist that can spend time evaluating their needs, educating them about resources, and then connect them with the appropriate services. These 2-1-1 agencies widen their reach by making their services available via chat, texting, and integrating their well-curated database of resources into their website. They also build partnerships with other providers by sharing their resource information and making it available to collaborators in a multitude of ways. Of course, iCarol is delighted to help a large percentages of 2-1-1s across Canada and the United States tap into these tools and innovation to help their communities.
The specialists at 2-1-1 are considered some of the unsung heroes of the global Coronavirus pandemic. While they aren’t always highly visible first responders in their communities, they are certainly an integral part of the COVID-19 response. From very early on in the pandemic, 2-1-1 centers have served as community helplines for COVID-19 health information, and provided critical resource information to individuals and families suffering from the economic fallout caused by the Coronavirus. And now as communities are implementing their vaccine roll outs, once again 2-1-1s are often serving as part of that process as well.
iCarol is proud to be working with so many 211 providers whose organizations provide a vital service to their communities by connecting millions of people to essential services each year. If you work at a 2-1-1 and celebrated this day at your helpline, whether it’s just a small occasion or large outreach event, we want to hear from you! Send your stories and photos to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can feature them on our blog and share your experiences with our readers and recognize your organization.
211 Maryland is currently seeking a candidate to fill the position of Database Administrator.
About the Position:
The Database Administrator oversees the evolution, expansion and maintenance of a statewide resource database that includes health and human service resources available to Marylanders and ensures standards are met by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS). They provide guidance and direction to 211 Maryland Call Center Resource Specialists, volunteers and information and referral specialists on database enhancements, development, and maintenance activities. The Database Administrator leads the creation of new partnerships with other statewide organizations that maintain health and human services databases to reduce duplication in resources and identify new partnerships. They serve as the point of contact for all statewide database requests.
Essential Duties and Responsibilities includes, but are not limited to :
Database development oversight:
In tandem with the Operations Director, develops statewide policy/procedures, documents and implements procedures for researching, selecting, classifying, indexing, and updating resource information to assure the accuracy, consistency and integrity of the database. Ensures that Inclusion/Exclusion criteria are uniformly applied statewide; a standardized profile is used for every resource; resources are classified by the AIRS/211 LA County taxonomy; and the database is updated annually. Networks with resource managers across the nation to stay abreast of best practices and developments in technology that could enable increased efficiencies. Regularly solicits input from call center resource specialist on resource needs and recommended system changes in accordance with identified needs.
Identify best practices for database development and maintenance:
In tandem with Operations Director and call centers, develop best practice policy/procedures for database improvements, maintenance, and technological upgrades. Support statewide efforts to increase agency resources, continued maintenance, and system updates. Support call centers with identifying resources and best practices to maintain and enhance their local resources.
10% Reporting: Creates customized resource reports. Collects and disseminates data on community resources as needed to support 211 Maryland’s public policy/statewide impact.
10% Relationship Building and Community Outreach: Identifies statewide collaboration opportunities. Oversee efforts to create data sharing agreements and processes with local and
statewide organizations. Coordinates database activities among 211 pilots. Networks with community service providers to promote availability of online resource database and to coordinate efforts to update resource information.
Identify best practice training opportunities. Coordinates database maintenance activities and trainings for call centers resource staff. Provides direction and guidance to resource specialists, information, and referral specialists, in researching, developing, and updating resources. Provides training as needed for call center staff on use of information and referral software for resource development and maintenance using the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy of Human Services.
Administrator must consistently demonstrate competency in:
- Maintaining a statewide resource database in accordance with AIRS standards.
- Supervise, guide, and instruct staff and volunteers with database development tasks.
- Plan daily work schedule and prioritize tasks to meet 211 MD’s goals and objectives.
- Perform tasks with minimal direct supervision.
- Build and manage external relationships.
- Leading or participate in team projects as required.
- Employ problem solving techniques when appropriate.
Qualifications and Requirements:
Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, Human Services, Library Sciences, or related field with at least 2 years of experience in a human service organization. Knowledge of computer systems, database technology and data analysis techniques. Basic knowledge of human service delivery system. iCarol Resource Database administration experience preferred.
Ability to express ideas clearly to individuals and groups.
- Agility to make independent decisions using good judgement.
- Organizational skills.
- Attention to detail.
- Strong relationship building and other interpersonal skills.
How to Apply:
Beginning in 2011, when the United States Senate first recognized Information and Referral Services Day, November 16th was designated to raise public awareness and recognize the critical importance of the I&R field.
So what is I&R? Information and Referral is the art, science and practice of bringing people and services together and is an integral component of the health and human services sector. People in search of critical services such as shelter, financial assistance, food, jobs, or mental health and substance abuse support often do not know where to begin to get help, or they get overwhelmed trying to find what they need. I&R services recognize that when people in need are more easily connected to the services that will help them, thanks to knowledgeable I&R professionals, it reduces frustration and ensures that people reach the proper services quickly and efficiently.
The Coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the various first responders that step up and care for us when times are tough, and I&R professionals have certainly been one such group that deserves our praise and thanks. Every day thousands of people find the help they need quickly, conveniently and free of charge because of I&R services. Since the earliest days of COVID-19 in North America, I&R services have answered calls for local health authorities or served as their state, region, or provincial hotline for assistance with COVID-19, from questions about symptoms to testing locations to how to navigate unemployment and obtaining financial or food assistance.
We at iCarol are honored to have so many Information and Referral services all across the world use our software to help provide these services to people who reach them via phone, chat, text, or through intake and screening forms or resource searches on their websites.
Happy I & R Day, everyone, and kudos on the awesome work you do connecting people with the services they need, and addressing the social determinants of health in your communities!
Learn more about these topics:
The Government of Canada recently approved funding that will expand 211 services to the entire country.
With this investment, residents of Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador will now be able to call 211 and reach trained specialists that can direct them to critical government and community-based health and social services in their community. 211 has been available in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and most of Quebec.
The Canadian 211 service offers listening support, information and referral assistance on a variety of topics including mental health and addiction, employment, food insecurity, financial instability, disaster response, services for older adults and those with disabilities, and a number of other topics. With specialists able to listen, assess needs and eligibility, and then direct consumers to all appropriate services to meet those needs during a single interaction, 211 serves as a front door or “one stop shop” for those seeking services and mitigates the stress on individuals and families facing a crisis.
The funding expansion is related to the country’s COVID-19 response. During the first wave of Coronavirus infections in the country, 211 centres across Canada saw a dramatic increase in the number of people reaching out for assistance. Call volume increased by 31% and website visits increased by 45% in the March to August timeframe.
iCarol is proud to partner with 211 Canada by providing software solutions that 211 centres use to document interactions with help seekers, curate information about community services and share those resources with consumers, collaborate with community-based organizations, manage their staff and schedules, and more. iCarol applauds the Government of Canada for investing in these services that Canadians need now more than ever before.
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 June 17, 2020 at 2pm EDT is Managing Automated Verification Requests and Responses.The goal of this training session is to teach iCarol users how to manage their Automated Verification Requests and Responses, and configure what fields are visible to the verifier. This training is for iCarol customers who are subscribed to the Automated Verification feature, or those who are interested in learning more about subscribing to that feature.
Not sure what the Automated Verification feature does? Click here to learn more.
During this training participants will:
- Review the Field Visibility Settings for Verifiers
- Learn how to style your data entry for optimal outcomes
- Understand the various request settings
- Learn about response filters
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.
As another year closes and a new one begins, we naturally reflect on the accomplishments, celebrations, and important moments of 2019 while anticipating all that lies ahead. Personally, I consider the past year to be one full of progress, both in the industries we serve and here at iCarol.
All year we engage with our customers at industry conferences, forums, and in other capacities so we can be intimately aware of the topics currently affecting them and others on the horizon. This helps us to respond in kind to meet these needs with new, innovative solutions from iCarol. This year was no exception – we have seen movement across all of the industries we serve that open opportunities for our customers that we are actively exploring ways to support using iCarol software.
In the world of Information and Referral, the topics of Social Determinants of Health, Closed-loop referral, and further encouragement to engage in partnerships and collaboration all show promise for many exciting opportunities for our customers. Those working to address sexual and intimate partner violence continue to advocate for education, awareness, prevention, improved response, and justice for all those who experienced a crime. We’re excited to see their advocacy result in new legislation across several states that extend statutes of limitations for crimes, signaling better recognition of the complexities and time involved for survivors to report, and improved allocation of resources towards testing material from forensic exams, improving the chances that survivors will receive justice. In December, the United States Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted to establish a three-digit number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the next 18 months. This is long sought after acknowledgement that mental health emergencies deserve the same attention and response as the types of emergencies reported to 9-1-1, something suicide prevention advocates have long been pressing for as a way to prevent suicide. Finally, concerns about consent for contact and data privacy continue to loom large across the world. Previous years have given us CASL in Canada and GDPR in the EU, both sweeping and comprehensive sets of regulations. Now we are beginning to see individual states and provinces taking on the task of writing their own legislation to protect consumers from having their data harvested and sold without their knowledge and consent, most notably in California’s Consumer Protection Act. We are doing all we can, and relying on our resources available through Harris Computer, to make sure that we are in full compliance with such laws, and that our customers are aware of how these laws may impact them directly.
These are just a few examples of developments impacting our customers in the year ahead. Of course we will look for any ways iCarol can support our customers through these changes, and help them carry out their life saving work. Look for more from us on our blog and webinars for updates on how we are addressing these topics.
The industries we serve aren’t the only ones experiencing progress – iCarol, too, went through positive changes in 2019. In December we moved to a new infrastructure on which the iCarol web application runs – Microsoft Azure. The migration to this new platform was the culmination of a year’s worth of planning and effort, and was not without its challenges and setbacks, but we are delighted to now be fully operational in the new environment and excited for all it means for our customers. Microsoft Azure will help us provide the most up-to-date, technologically advanced platform available. We can scale and ramp up performance as needed to meet increases in system use, whether it be due to an event, disaster, or the normal periodic demands on the system that occur for monthly exports and reporting. We are delighted not just by the way this move allows us to be more responsive to system demands, but knowing that Azure offers built-in security services that include unparalleled security intelligence. We are very excited to track data over time to show how this new infrastructure improves performance and stability, and supports the future growth in iCarol’s customer base.
I must acknowledge and express deep gratitude for the great support and patience we received from our customers during this transition and in the months prior. Our customers exercised immense trust and patience with us as we developed the plan to make this sweeping change to our infrastructure. Their user testing of the new environment, feedback, and communication with us greatly contributed to the success of this project. I cannot say enough wonderful things about our customers as essential partners with us on this journey.
There is much more to share about what was accomplished in the year behind us, and what’s on our agenda for the year ahead. Later this month we will host a “State of iCarol” webinar for our customers reviewing 2019 progress and our plans for 2020. You can also look to our blogs and email updates, and for customers, our Admin Dashboard, for more exciting information as it develops.
So, as this new year begins, I wish to thank everyone who makes it their life’s work to help others, most especially our customers, on behalf of the entire iCarol Team. Every day we see the positive impact you have on individuals and communities as a whole, and we could not be more honored to play a small part in the amazing work you do. The team at iCarol is excited to see what 2020 holds and hope for continued progress towards a safer, happier, and healthier society thanks to the work you do.
Vice President, Operations
A Public Resource Directory (PRD) — the iCarol feature that empowers iCarol customers to allow their resource database to be accessed and searched on the web — is an invaluable tool, especially for 211s and other Information and Referral contact centers who need to provide their communities with modern ways to find help using self-service and other alternatives to making a phone call.
When a website visitor is browsing a PRD and collecting resources to pursue, they want easy ways to save the information so they can access it when they are offline, share it with a friend or family member who needs assistance, or simply keep a local copy of the resources they’re planning to pursue accessing services from.
iCarol customers using the Public Resource Directory 2.0 version can allow public visitors to their iCarol Public Resource Directory to download a PDF of a resource record, providing another option to make the resource record information portable, accessible, and shareable.
iCarol customers using the PRD 2.0 can learn more by accessing the Help Articles knowledge base when signed in to their iCarol web application.
Collaboration is becoming a necessary part of not-for-profit work. Ensuring a partnership is successful for everyone involved takes careful planning that starts long before you begin the work with your fellow collaborators.
The team at iCarol has been helping our customers have smoother collaborations since the software’s creation, through a variety of tools that include sharing resource database for the purposes of both maintenance and referral giving, contact form sharing to help with after-hours outsourcing and network building, and features like the Contact Record Outbound API and Resource API that allow data to be shared directly with other applications.
For several years, before they even worked for iCarol, Senior Product Manager, Crystal McEachern, and Director of Business Development, Polly McDaniel, have offered guidance on collaboration building at industry conferences. They have over 20 years of combined experience on both sides of collaboration—as I&R professionals working with their fellow non-profit organizations and as iCarol staff members helping customers build collaborations.
Now, you can learn from their expertise through an all new eBook authored by Polly and Crystal. In it, you’ll find step-by-step guidance on building a collaboration, including tips for the planning process and important things to consider that are often overlooked. Does the prospect of writing an MOU make your head spin? We have you covered! The eBook even includes a workbook for use in your own personal collaboration planning.
Best of all, the eBook is completely free — we’re sharing it with you in hopes our experience and guidance can help you successfully deliver services to even more people in your communities.
Download the eBook