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Monday 26th, August - 2019

At this year’s Hunter Business Awards for Excellence, ProCare had the esteemed honour of taking out first place in the Social Enterprise category. The award, announced at a gala ceremony on Friday 23 August, was presented to ProCare due to an 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 was launched with the assistance of $113,000 grant from Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation  

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CEO of ProCare, Cary Lee Accepting Award 

Next Step is a partnership between ProCare and Hunter New England Health that taps into 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 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.  

“Community partnerships are vital to improving mental health services in the region,“ said Dr Marcia Fogarty, Executive Director, Hunter New England Mental Health Services. “Initiatives such as the Next Step improve clinical collaboration and ultimately lead to positive health outcomes for thousands of people in the Hunter.”


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.”

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,” Nick said.

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

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 meaningful 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 long term solution to ensuring appropriate care is available more people, and not just those with the capacity to pay, when it is needed most,” Phil said.

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As a not-for-profit organisation, your donations help us empower local people to meet life’s challenges.

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GP Psychiatry Support Line is a free service to GPs to help manage the care of mental health consumers. 

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The ProCare Team with Greg Budworth:

Group Managing Director, Compass Housing

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CEO of ProCare Cary Lee with Vice Chancellor 

Alex Zellinsky

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