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Next Step was launched with the assistance of a $113,000 grant.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Newcastle based not-for-profit, ProCare Mental Health Services has taken out the Hunter Business Award for Excellence in Social Enterprise at the 2019 Hunter Business Awards. 

The honour, announced at a gala ceremony on Friday 23 August, was awarded for ProCare’s innovative approach to providing accessible mental health services to the Hunter community. 

At the centre of ProCare’s community focused model is the Next Step Incubator Program which is designed to deliver increased availability of mental health professionals to the community at an affordable cost, when it is most needed. 

Next Step is a partnership between ProCare and Hunter New England Health that taps in to the stream of mental health professionals cultivated through Hunter New England Health’s fellowship program to increase the number of practitioners operating in the Newcastle Community. ProCare’s not-for-profit model means that no one will miss out on treatment based on their capacity to afford it. 

Next Step was launched with the assistance of a $113,000 grant from Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation.  

Next Step has an additional benefit of retaining the Hunter’s best talent to maximise the availability of mental health care professionals in our community, particularly sought after psychiatrists. Despite their local training, the majority of fellowship graduates move away from the region to seek opportunities in Sydney, interstate, and internationally. Next Step provides practical support, professional development, and community values that offer graduates a genuine opportunity to practice locally.  

Chief Executive Officer of Hunter New England Health, Michael DiRienzo said community partnerships are vital to tackling mental health in the Region.

“Initiatives such as Next Step improve clinical collaboration and ultimately lead to positive health outcomes for thousands of people in the Hunter,” Michael said.

ProCare Chairman, Nick Sovechles said that Next Step was a community partnership designed to bring a new, but practical approach to solving a significant community issue. 

“ProCare, with program partners Hunter New England Health and Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation have collaborated to implement a program that can sustainably improve access to mental health services in the Hunter.”  

Head of ProCare’s clinical team and Deputy Commissioner for the Mental Health Commission of NSW, Dr Martin Cohen said, “for people seeking help, Next Step makes services available when they are needed without lengthy waits and when treatment is most effective. For public health services, it means fewer people presenting to hospital at the acute stage, alleviating some pressure on busy emergency departments”.  

Since commencement, the program has made more than 8,000 appointments available for people who otherwise would have faced lengthy waits or high costs in the private system or progressed to acute in-patient services in a public hospital. 

Next Step has also enabled ProCare to offer a GP Psychiatry Support Line. Over 7,000 GPs across NSW have access to this free service, where ProCare’s psychiatry team provides phone advice and education to help empower GPs to manage mental health issues in primary care. 

Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation Chair, Phil Neat congratulated ProCare on the award saying it was deserved recognition for its development of an innovative model of service delivery, which was making a meaning difference to the lives of people in the Hunter.  

“We know the excellent professional talent and health systems we possess in the Hunter. Next Step brings this together in a collaborative, community based model that offers a long term solution to ensuring appropriate care is available to more people, and not just those with capacity to pay, when it is needed most,” Phil said.

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