The growing mental health trend will see nearly one in two Novocastrians seeking professional help at some point in their lifetime. Recently, an innovative new project has begun to make inroads into the long waiting lists to see a specialist mental health professional in the region.
In 2018, Newcastle-based not-for-profit mental health provider ProCare, empowered by a $113,000 grant from Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation, started an initiative to entice home-grown medical talent to remain and practice in Newcastle.
This ambitious project was dubbed ProCare’s Next Step Initiative and targeted recently graduating psychiatrists to remain and practice in the Hunter region.
Hunter New England Health’s Fellowship Program produces some of the nation’s best and brightest psychiatrists, but most drift away to further their careers in Sydney, interstate or internationally.
As a result, there’s been a shortage of new leaders in mental health to help treat local patients, which has resulted in excessive wait times for the most vulnerable.
ProCare Chairperson, Nick Sovechles, said that twelve months on from the launch of the program Next Step has improved the availability of highly trained professionals in the community, to complement the existing public services which were under pressure from high demand.
“By offering psychiatrists entering the workforce a fully staffed facility along with a solid client base tailored to their specialties, the option to remain in Newcastle is far more enticing,” Nick said.
“ProCare’s not-for-profit model means that our services are available to people who would otherwise struggle to pay in the private system.”
One adopter of the Next Step initiative is Dr. Tarun Yadav, who joined ProCare in 2019.
Following his fellowship training with Hunter New England Health, Tarun was excited by the opportunities on offer.
“Working at ProCare has been a dream come true experience,” he said.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with excellent psychologists and psychiatrists in a friendly environment with amazing and helpful support staff who have made my transition as smooth as possible.”
“Having experienced industry leaders like Dr. Martin Cohen working across the corridor has been precious. The monthly peer group supervision meetings have been the icing on the cake. I get the opportunity to discuss various clinical and non-clinical complex scenarios to further grow as a mental health professional,” he said.
Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation Chair, Phil Neat, said that innovative community partnerships such as with ProCare can help solve complex community issues and improve the lives of people at risk of marginalisation through mental illness.
“The Charitable Foundation Board recognised Next Step’s potential to provide a practical solution for making mental health services more available to people in the Hunter. One of the great features of the program is ability to deliver appropriate treatment when it is needed, before acute intervention is required,” he said.
The Next Step initiative has enabled ProCare to build a team of fifteen mental health clinicians servicing local needs, with more than 8,000 sessions conducted annually.
Wait times have been dramatically reduced, and the organisation now plays a pivotal role in providing leadership to 7000 other health professionals across NSW through the GP Psychiatry support-line.
ProCare was also the recent recipient of the Excellence in Social Enterprise Award at the 2019 Hunter Business Awards in recognition of the ongoing efforts of the Next Step Initiative.
IMAGE | Dr. Tarun Yadav (Psychiatrist at ProCare Mental Health Services), Phil Neat (Chair at Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation) and Nick Sovechles (Chairperson at ProCare Mental Health Services) (left-right)