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Health Equity, Growth, and Listening: ORCHWA in 2018

Friday, January 11, 2019   (0 Comments)
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Sossity Chiricuzio,

Operations & Marketing Coordinator 

Oregon Community Health Workers Association


The Oregon Community Health Workers Association (ORCHWA) will be presenting at the Western Forum for Migrant and Community Health in Portland on February 20th. 


The Oregon Community Health Workers Association (ORCHWA) is the statewide professional association for Community Health Workers (CHWs). Founded in November, 2011 ORCHWA provides a unified voice to empower and advocate for CHWs in Oregon. We are a grassroots, membership-led organization made up of CHWs from across the state, providing training, workforce development, research, evaluation, and innovative collaborative programming that supports CHWs in a variety of culturally-specific communities. We have expanded our mission and reach in many ways since we were founded, and especially so in 2018.


ORCHWA staff at SCRAP on our staff bonding day


Our staff has doubled in number to support our existing programming and CHW collaboratives and accommodate our new projects, allowing us to serve even more CHWs and communities. Our team now includes a Workforce Development Director (Ben Sanford), a Director of Early Life Programming (Arika Bridgeman-Bunyoli), a Data & Evaluation Manager (Angie Kuzma), and a Policy & Advocacy Coordinator (currently vacant.) We are also very pleased to have Noelle Wiggins, one of our co-founders, on our team as a Senior Research & Evaluation Consultant.


With funding from the Oregon Health Authority Office of Equity and Inclusion and HealthShare of Oregon, we recently completed our statewide needs assessment of the CHW workforce. Our final report, which will soon be available for download on our website, provides background on the CHW workforce in Oregon and nationally, describes the methodology used to conduct the assessment, and shares findings and a set of 31 recommendations that we believe are key to sustaining and enhancing the health and impact of the CHW workforce statewide. 


Local workers from Pendleton in the beautiful Tamástslikt Cultural Institute


Our workforce development, data and policy initiatives all came together in our ORCHWA Listening Tour this fall (#ORCHWAListens2018) during which Ben Sanford and Montana Lewellen (our former Policy Coordinator) traveled more than 1500 miles around the state. They met with representatives of 30 different organizations that convened for groups in Hood River, Pendleton, La Grande, Ontario, Burns, Salem and Eugene. Attendees included Community Health Workers, Peer Support Specialists, Supervisors, Representatives of Coordinated Care Organizations, Program Directors and Community Health Representatives serving members of Oregon’s Tribal communities. The tour served as an opportunity to gather feedback for the Statewide Needs Assessment around training, education and professional development, and to share ORCHWA’s policy work and provide training on ways CHWs could engage in community and political advocacy.


In addition to the Warriors of Wellness (WOW) and We Are Home (WAH), our collaboratives now include the Community Education Workers (CEW) Program, and ORCHWA will be offering trainings for both CEWs and CHWs in 2019. We moved into a new office in the Jantzen Building, and secured major investments from HealthShare of Oregon, the Oregon Health Authority/Oregon Health and Science University, and the United Way, which support our recent growth and our capacity to be accessible and to keep growing.


We also received a grant from Pride Foundation, and in partnership with them and other funding partners we will develop a first of its kind 90-hour certification training for transgender Community Health Workers. We know that our transgender community members experience health disparities at alarming rates, both in access to transition-related care, and more broadly across the spectrum of healthcare and social determinants of health. Though Oregon is recognized nationally as a leader in transgender health services, we still have a long way to go in connecting the most vulnerable in our communities to affirming, competent care at all levels. Working with members of the trans community to develop this curriculum and first cohort of CHWs is crucial for providing vital links in the Queer and Trans communities, and being a powerful voice for systems change across sectors.


ORCHWA Conference 2018 Attendees


Our 6th Annual Conference in Eugene (#ORCHWACon2018) brought in over 200 attendees and featured keynote speakers Former State of Oregon Governor Dr. John Kitzhaber and Lane County Commissioner Joe Berney, as well as a diverse panel of CHW’s from all 5 regions. Breakout sessions included “Creating Effective and Meaningful Responses to Intimate Partner Violence for Community Health Workers,” “Introduction to Spinal Cord Injury for Community Health Workers,” “ESPERE – Overcoming Trauma to Continue Moving Forward with a Productive Attitude,” “Social Determinants of Health of an Oregon Tribal Community,” “Mental Health & the LGTBQIA+ Community” and so much more! Our 7th Annual Conference is tentatively scheduled for August 16-17, 2019, in Medford.


ORCHWA welcomes participation and collaboration with health and social service providers, organizations, and communities, and is currently seeking people to join our Membership & Communications, Education and Training, and Policy & Advocacy sub-committees.


For more information on these, the conference, and other ways to get involved, please visit our website (orchwa.org) and follow us on social media (@ORCHWA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.) 




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