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Posts Tagged ‘Helplines’

National Council on Problem Gambling Conference Recap

Donna and I recently returned from the National Council on Problem Gambling‘s annual conference, and we had such a great time!

This year’s conference was held in beautiful Baltimore, Maryland. Since I’m from Maryland and still live there, I was quite excited about attending this conference. It’s always fun when so many people from all over the country or world are visiting, perhaps for the first time, a place with which you’re quite familiar. I had a fun time all week sharing little tidbits about my home state with people from out of town.

And, if you ever travel to Baltimore I highly recommend the hotel where the conference was held, the Baltimore Hilton right across from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Perfectly centrally located for all sorts of fun activities in the city including baseball or football games, and the world famous Inner Harbor. Plus the conference rooms and all the accommodations for the conference were top notch.

Check out this photo taken from my room as the sun sets over Baltimore.

Baltimore at sunset room view

In the center of the photo is the Baltimore Convention Center, just to the lower right of that is the famous Otterbein Church, and if you look just above the Convention Center you’ll see the Inner Harbor in the distance. Like I said, centrally located!

We were invited to attend and present at the pre-conference Helpline Symposium. This was an exciting opportunity to show many of the NCPG affiliates all around the country how iCarol chat and text works. iCarol is the provider for NCPG’s national text and chat lines, so when a chat comes through that website or a text comes through that national text number, it will be routed to an affiliate center based on routing criteria like availability and location. So, as affiliates choose to come online and be part of that national chat and text network, we’ll be ready and delighted to help get them set up on iCarol. It’s another great example of the networks and collaborations that can be built using iCarol. We hope to bring you more information about this network and how it’s growing as time goes on.

Here’s Donna presenting information about the national chat and text network. Special thanks to Robyn from the Louisiana affiliate and Amy from the National Council on Problem Gambling, who helped us do a live demonstration!

iCarol demo live chat text helpline symposium NCPG

The Helpline Symposium was a great chance to hear from affiliates about their experiences. A number of really interesting topics were discussed, such as marketing challenges facing the industry. Coming up with effective, consistent messaging, and increasing visibility and awareness of problem gambling issues, as well as promoting where people can get help, were all among the topics this engaged and energetic group discussed.

We sure did have a great view from our conference room where the symposium was held, check out the beautiful scene just out the window of Oriole Park at Camden Yards where the Baltimore Orioles play.

Oriole Park Camden Yards as seen from Hilton Oriole Park Camden Yards as seen from Hilton

Throughout the conference the culture of Maryland was on display in the best of ways. We caught one of Maryland’s famous crabs hanging out with a volunteer during the symposium break!

Maryland Crab center for excellence problem gambling

Of course networking and spending time with friends is a highlight of any conference. We took in a delicious dinner at Dempsey’s located right across the street in the Camden Yards complex. Here’s Donna (center) with industry friends Robyn and Mary posing just outside the ballpark.

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Before we knew it, it was time for the welcome reception. What a great event! The baseball theme was tons of fun, everyone was wearing jerseys representing their favorite teams. But it gets better — the food was ballpark themed too! Soft pretzels, popcorn, crackerjacks, a sliders station, and it wouldn’t be an event in Maryland without some crabcakes! We got to visit with so many wonderful people from various parts of the industry, too, since the exhibitor’s hall was all set up, where our booth was located.

While we’re talking about the reception, I’ve got to give a huge shout out to the hosts of the conference, the Maryland Council on Problem Gambling and the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling (University of Maryland School of Medicine). Every detail was so great, from the food to the accommodations to the conference rooms and session spaces and fun activities. What fabulous hosts they were!

The conference kicked off the next day with a great keynote by psychiatrist Dr. David Mee-Lee, who has worked for years as an expert in addiction both substance and non-substance related, as well as co-occurring conditions. It was a really engaging keynote with lots of comic relief via Dr. Mee-Lee’s slideshow.

The breakout sessions were highly informative. I attended sessions on a variety of topics including veteran gambling addiction, gambling addiction as it relates to mental illness such a schizophrenia, and new technologies being used in video gaming units at casinos. I plan to bring you more detail on those interesting topics in the coming months.

Another fun networking event was the Friday evening trip to the American Visionary Art Museum in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore. Fun fact: Just two miles further down the street from the museum is Fort McHenry, where Marylander Francis Scott Key witnessed a battle in the War of 1812 and wrote a poem which would later become the lyrics to the United States’ National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner! See, I told you I enjoyed peppering people with facts about my home state!

While no photos were permitted within the museum, I encourage you to check out their website. It was an extremely unique, thought-provoking place unlike any art museum I’ve been to before!

Next door to the museum was a reception area with more yummy food (four words: crab mac and cheese!) where we took in an exhibit specifically about problem gambling, with pieces of art by students, people in recovery, and family members of problem gamblers.

This was a particularly powerful piece titled “Losing Hand” by artist Jennifer L. Walsh, who experienced the effects of problem gambling through her own mother’s addiction.

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The caption reads:

“Losing Hand: Why Gamble When You’ve Already Won” is an image of a losing hand of poker. The player’s hand in the foreground is holding five cards, each with an image of what they have accomplished or gained in their life and what they are actually losing when they gamble.

The Ace of Hearts is the last card in the hand and is slipping out of the thumb’s grip, signifying the loss of family due to the habit.

We had a fantastic time at the conference and enjoyed meeting so many of you in the problem gambling industry. If you didn’t get a chance to chat with us at the conference, please check out our website and contact us for more information on iCarol Helpline Software. Or, feel free to attend one of my regular webinars to get an idea of what we’re all about!

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Celebrate the Love

lgbt pride month gay lesbian bisexual transgenderAt iCarol we’re celebrating today’s landmark Supreme Court decision which effectively made marriage equality the law of the land in all 50 states of the US.

Many businesses big and small are changing their social media logos to celebrate this decision, and Pride Month as a whole. We’ve followed suit. Please check out our Facebook and Twitter pages for a peek at our temporary icon change. And while you’re there, please follow us!

We know most of you reading this blog are a part of organizations that work hard every day to improve the lives of people all over the world, some specifically working for LGBTQI causes. It’s thanks to people like you that things are continuously changing for the better. Kids are growing up in a world where same-sex relationships and now same-sex marriage is more and more normalized. LGBT Youth, regardless of where they live, will now know that the government treats their relationships with the same respect and protections as straight couples. This equality will undoubtedly lead to LGBT youth feeling valued, supported, and less isolated. There are still many hurdles to overcome, but we’re on the right track.

Happy Pride Month, everyone!

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Pride Month Spotlight: QLife

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In honor of Pride Month we asked LGBTQI organizations to tell us more about themselves, their work, and what they saw as the highlights in the LGTBQI community and their organization this past year. Check out answers to these questions and more from Ross Jacobs, National Clinical Director of QLife, based in Australia.

Tell us a little about what your organization does, and how specifically you help the LGBTQI community.

QLife is a collaborative project, bringing together five separate agencies to provide telephone and web-based counselling for LGBTI Australians, coast to coast. We operate 365 days a year, with a small team of paid counsellors and workers supporting the efforts of nearly 200 volunteers.

What were your organization’s biggest accomplishments or milestones from the past year? What are you most proud of?

This year, QLife continued to grow, having only existed as a nation-wide collaborative project since mid-2013. (Previously, each partner service provided counselling to only their home state.) Webchat has been a significant part of this service growth, both offering clients a different way to interact, and reaching young clients for whom web chat is a far more comfortable platform than telephone contact.

What were some of the biggest or most impactful stories or moments you saw as they related to the LGBTQI community this past year? They could be happy, sad, momentous, regional, national, or international. What did you observe that really moved you?

One of the most rewarding pieces of work that QLife engaged in this year (beyond our counselling service of course!) was making ‘QLives’, a series of 16 short films featuring the lived experience of LGBTI people in all of our varied shapes and sizes. The QLives films featured heavily on the QLife Facebook page, and can be accessed at any time through our YouTube channel. It seemed to be really effective way to draw in people who may not have known about QLife to the service. We hope that watching stories from the lives of people who have similar life experiences can help people start to think about talking to someone and how this may be able to help them.

When you look to the year ahead, on what topics or issues are you hopeful/anxious/or watching closely to see how they develop?

As is the case in the US, Australia is still going through a process of dragging our political leaders across the marriage equality line that it feels like the public became comfortable with long ago. Beyond this, the mental health of our individual communities, including suicide prevention measures and access to appropriate and suitable medical care, remains an ongoing struggle.

What do you see as some of the biggest challenges still facing the LGBTQI community as a whole, or certain populations within the community?

The way LGBTIQ people are regarded, whether part of the fabric of a wider society or quite separate from it is at the heart of many of our challenges. But happily, the growing awareness, particularly in younger generations, that the individual lives of LGBTIQ people matter and are to be valued is relentlessly increasing. The way we think of ourselves as LGBTIQ people seems to be evolving too. It feels like traditional ideas of a single LGBTIQ community are being challenged, with an understanding that we are actually made up of many different communities that have different needs and interests, even among single identities – there are many distinct ‘types’ of gay men and how people choose to express this, for instance.

Thanks so much to Ross for telling us more about QLife and sharing these thoughts for Pride Month! iCarol is very pleased to be working with QLife as they provide these awesome services to Australia’s LGBTI community. QLife is always happy to talk to others doing similar work across the world, and they’d love to hear from you, via social media (they are on Twitter or Facebook) or by direct email to ! We also encourage our clients to reach out to one another to network or share information via our iCarol User Community found on your Admin Dashboard in iCarol.

Want to have your input and organization highlighted on the blog for Pride Month? Send your answers to the above questions to me !

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Collaborative Messaging: Build Networks, Connect with other Helplines

Collaborating w partnersOne key feature of iCarol is the ability to link and share service delivery with other helplines in a variety of ways. Historically a common partnership scenario involves call centers who pass some or all of their calls to other iCarol-using centers either as after-hours contracts, or on an as-needed basis for overflow. iCarol accommodates these partnerships with call report sharing capabilities. Much the same with resources, centers can share resource databases with others who may be taking their calls, or to better service the needs of help-seekers with a wider range of potential services to refer them to, or through setting up provincial and state-wide resource databases to be accessed by a network of helplines who can all take part in maintaining these resources, thus reducing burden to each individual center.

These same principles of sharing volume to benefit centers and clients alike also extends to iCarol Messaging, and in recent month’s we’ve made improvements in this arena.

As an example, one nationwide network using iCarol was using a sort of round-robin approach in how to route chats to the centers who were members of that network. Visitors would arrive to the website and click through to chat, and from there they’d be routed to one of the centers based on the schedule, and the coverage area of the center. Once they were properly routed, they’d arrive at that center’s registration page and after completing registration they’d appear in just that center’s messaging queue.

There are some challenges to this approach, namely:

  • The routing system didn’t take counselor availability into account so chats may be routed but the destination center may be overwhelmed with other work and short on counselors to take chats
  • The visitor was visible just in the iCarol system to which they were routed
  • Registration pages may have a different look and feel, depending on the center to which the visitor was sent
  • Lack of control over the data being collected by individual centers
  • Statistics could not be run in real-time; they had to be aggregated first

chat networks sharingOur developers have been working on a new approach for this network, and they’re currently using it to much success during the pilot period. So, how does the approach work now? The network is using a single shared “portal” made available to the participating centers in their iCarol systems, rather than routing the chats as it did before. This means:

  • Standardized registration pages make for a more consistent look and feel, and better branding for the network
  • Pre-written messages, reporting forms, and data collection are standardized
  • The network system directly hosts and controls their own data, so they get better reporting capabilities
  • Chats are visible to any center serving the visitor’s area, meaning better load balancing and shorter wait times for visitors, fewer abandoned chats
  • Chats are clearly marked as being from the network, but appear in the same queue as the center’s other local chats for ease of use

We’re excited to say that this pilot period has gone very well and the network is enjoying the benefits of the shared portal technology.

We’d welcome the opportunity to talk to you about your network whether it’s provincial/statewide, or national, to see how this functionality could improve and streamline your messaging services and benefit all your participating centers and visitors alike. Current iCarol users, please open a case with us, or if you’re not using iCarol yet please contact us to learn more!

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New Tools for Finding Follow-ups and Surveys Due

We understand how important the follow-up process is at your helpline. There are many different reasons to follow-up with a help seeker after your initial conversation has ended. Safety planning and ongoing contact with support systems are extremely important for people who are having thoughts of suicide. Or perhaps you’d like to see if the referrals a caller was given were able to help them. Many centers also use a follow-up call as an opportunity to conduct a satisfaction or quality assurance survey.

helpline flowWhatever reason you are following up with a client, our follow-up activity within a call report form makes it easy to schedule these follow-ups. You can collect the important information you’ll need to conduct the follow-up call, not just the person’s name and phone number but important information to preserve confidentiality, like knowing whether or not it’s okay to leave a voicemail, or to say where you’re calling from if a third party answers the phone. Your volunteers can even sign up for an email notification to tell them a follow-up call has been scheduled and assigned to them. There’s also a handy “inbox” on the main calls page where they can quickly navigate to the list of follow-ups that are scheduled.

With our next release we’ll be launching improvements to the pages that list Follow-ups and Surveys due. Those pages, as always, are accessed from the Calls menu. Here are highlights of the changes, which you’ll see soon:

  • New arrows on the top bar let you change the sort order of each column: call report form number, due date, client name, phone worker, assigned to, and subject.
  • To make the date column sortable, that’s now in YYYY/MM/DD format.
  • A new search box lets you more quickly find the call reports you need by typing in a search term.
  • You can still reassign followups, but it looks a little different — the pulldown is gone. Instead, please just click on the “assigned to” name, and then you’ll see the list of names from which you can choose.

We hope this enhancement helps save time in your daily work; making it so you can quickly and efficiently find the information you need when conducting follow-up interactions.

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Celebrating Social Work Month

March is Social Work Month and a great opportunity to appreciate and thank Social Workers everywhere for their tireless dedication to improving the lives of people worldwide. This is a particularly special year for Social Work as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Many of you working in the helpline industry have a social work background or are certified or licensed social workers, and certainly the work that any helpline does classifies as falling into the category of social work. In honor of Social Work Month, the Oxford University Press has temporarily made available, for free, articles, videos, and more that may be of interest to you.

For more great information on Social Work Month and social work in general, visit NASW’s Social Work Month webpage.

History of Social Workers
Source: SocialWorkDegreeCenter.com

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March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month

According to the National Council for Problem Gambling, over 5 million people in the US meet the criteria for gambling addiction. Over 1 million Canadians are affected by moderate to severe problem gambling.

Availability of gambling is at an all-time high, with gaming expanding rapidly online and via mobile apps. But understanding and recognition of gambling addiction as a real public health concern has not kept up the pace with this rapid expansion. Gambling can not only result in financial ruin or legal problems, but it can also lead to co-occurring disorders, depression and other mental health issues, and even suicide.

March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month and this year’s theme is “Have the Conversation.” NCPG is encouraging that these talks happen among friends, family, and by professionals with their clients. Mental health professionals are urged to screen clients and talk to them about any gambling problems. Friends and family will want to learn the warning signs and talk to their loved ones. NCPG also wants Gambling Operators to take part by offering informational displays and provide training to their staff.

To learn more about problem gambling, check out the infographic below, and visit the National Problem Gambling Month website for more information on how you can participate and offer help to those in need of resources.

national problem gambling awareness month

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The Center for Family Safety and Healing empowers bystanders

Center for Family Safety and HealingThe Center for Family Safety and Healing (TCFSH) fully addresses all aspects of family violence, including child abuse and neglect, teen dating abuse, domestic violence and elder abuse. Their multidisciplinary team approach includes a one-stop, coordinated response to family violence for individuals and families through partnerships with law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution and a wide range of community resources along with an expanded forum for education, advocacy and ongoing research.

On January 8, 2015, “Where’s The Line?”, a first-of-its-kind family violence awareness campaign was unveiled, geared to empowering bystanders to act on behalf of family violence victims. More than 60 percent of Americans know someone who is the victim of family violence. TCFSH will be offering resources that are designed to educate the general public, answer questions, and triage requests to appropriate services.

iCarol is very pleased to assist TCFSH with this new campaign. Kiersten Curtis, information coordinator at The Center for Family Safety and Healing, had this to say just prior to the launch of the new campaign regarding her work with iCarol:

“Your team is magnificent…Per your earlier email, thank you for being available to help me and the quick solution you found. Tomorrow, we are launching our public education campaign and I thought that you’d like to read the media advisory since iCarol is such a fundamental component to the success of our campaign.”

Thank you very much for your kind words Kiersten! We are pleased to have you and your agency as part of the iCarol family!

We’d love to share news about your helpline’s successes, new programs and services. Please to us to share your story.

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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

A youth’s teen years can be such an exciting time in her or his life. Enjoying some independence for the first time, beginning to plan for and think about the future ahead, and of course often this is a time when youth first experience romantic relationships and even love.

Unfortunately this is not a positive experience for all teens. According to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, one in three adolescents is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. According to the organization Break the Cycle, teens that experience abuse in a relationship are more likely to abuse drugs, drop out of school, engage in high-risk sexual behavior, act violently and even attempt suicide. The repercussions of such dating experiences as a teen can unfortunately follow them into adulthood as well, as without the proper support and intervention they typically find it difficult to change those abusive patterns as they become adults, and thus are more likely to continue to experience abuse in their adult relationships.

It’s important that we spread awareness of the issue, as lack of awareness is contributing to the prevalence of the problem. According to one study, 81% of parents say that they don’t think teen dating violence is an issue or they admit they don’t know if it’s an issue. And only one third of teens who experience this type of relationship ever tell a trusted adult about it. It’s up to us to recognize the signs and engage youth on the topic.

Check out the infographic below for even more about teen dating violence, as well as these great sources of information so that members of your community can learn more about Teen Dating Violence and how to prevent it:

About Teen Dating Violence Month

Love Is Respect

Break the Cycle

Speak Out Against Teen Dating Violence
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