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CHW Education

Life Experience

CHWs bring rich life experience to their work, that cannot be taught in a classroom. Each is able to serve their community best by relating their own experience to those of their clients. In addition, CHWs gain additional knowledge and skills through a 90-hour foundational training program held statewide by Oregon Community Health Workers Association and other state approved training sites. This training program is often paid for by an employer, sponsoring organization, or scholarship. 

CHWs, A Recognized Traditional Health Worker Type

The state of Oregon has supported the incorporation of Traditional Health Workers (THWs) within healthcare reform development. THWs who are registered with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), on the THW Registry, and meet all OHA required criteria are eligible for reimbursement by Medicaid for approved services. There is no fee to apply for the THW Registry.

There are 5 State of Oregon recognized Traditional Health Worker (THW) types, As defined by OHA:

  • Community Health Worker (CHW): frontline public health workers who are trusted members of and/or have an unusually close understanding of the community served.
  • Birth Doula: a birth companion who provides personal, non-medical support to women and families throughout a woman’s pregnancy, childbirth, and post-partum experience.
  • Peer Support Specialist (PSS): any of [a range of] individuals who provide supportive services to a current or former consumer of mental health or addiction treatment.
  • Peer Wellness Specialist (PWS): an individual who has lived experience of a psychiatric condition(s) plus intensive training, who works as part of a person-driven, health home team, integrating behavioral health and primary care to assist and advocate for individuals in achieving well-being.
  • Personal Health Navigator (PHN): an individual who provides information, assistance, tools and support to enable a patient to make the best health care decisions.

As of March 2023, over 950 CHWs were registered with the state of Oregon. Not all CHWs choose to register with the State of Oregon and be listed on the Traditional Health Worker Registry.  There are many community members serving as CHWs across systems, in their communities, and within families that are not formally accounted for meaning the number of CHWs statewide is well over 1000! CHWs are highly versatile and work in community and/or clinical settings and in a variety of roles.  CHWs are valuable in both rural and metropolitan communities improving the health, wellness, and trajectory of our communities.

As a statewide workforce association, ORCHWA promotes fidelity to the CHW model - supporting self-determination, workforce development, advocacy, and partnership for and with CHWs regardless of their status on the THW Registry.

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