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How to Become a THW

Beginning April 1st 2024, the Oregon Health Authority's Traditional Health Worker Program application portal is now Live . We urge every applicant seeking OHA certification and renewing certifications to use the portal. The application portal also allows individuals to update personal information, access determination letters, and check application status anytime! The electronic system provides step-by-step guidance for efficient application submission.

A mobile-friendly and computer-friendly system at your fingertips. Start your THW application now.  

On this page you will find information about how to become a state certified THW, including the certification requirements, the legacy clause, and background checks.

The purpose of the Traditional Health Worker (THW) Program is to help THWs in Oregon become trained and certified to meet current standards, diversify the health care workforce, provide high-quality and culturally competent care to our increasingly diverse populations and ultimately promote health equity.   

Initial Certification

You must meet all of these criteria to become certified by the Oregon Health Authority:

  • Be at least 18 years old
Have successfully completed all training requirements for certification for the worker type you would like to be certified for:

(Note: If you are a Certified Recovery Mentor (CRM) and are registered through Mental Health and Addiction Certification Board of Oregon (MHACBO), you are now required to also submit a THW Peer Support Specialist Application along with all other required documents).

Legacy Clause (formerly known as the grandparenting clause)

The OHA Traditional Health Worker Program is now accepting legacy clause for THW application:

(3) Individuals seeking THW certification and registry enrollment as a Legacy Clause for community health worker, peer wellness specialist, personal health navigator, peer support specialist, or birth doula shall:

(a) Be at least 18 years of age;

(b) Pass a background check as described in OAR 950-060-0070;

(c) Submit to the Authority all required documentation and a completed application on an Authority prescribed form by June 30, 2025 including:

(A) A minimum of one letter of recommendation from any previous employer for whom THW services were provided within the last five years.

(B) Verifiable evidence of working or volunteering in the capacity of a community health worker, peer wellness specialist, or personal health navigator for at least 3000 hours within the last five years.

(C) Verifiable evidence of working or volunteering in the capacity of a peer support specialist for at least 2000 hours within the last five years.

(D) Verifiable evidence of attending 10 births and providing 500 hours of community work supporting birthing persons and families in the capacity of a birth doula.

Submit a completed application and all required documentation:

  • Pass a Criminal Background Check - Look for emails from "ORCHARDS" which is the Background Check Unit. You will need to respond to these emails at your earliest convenience as this part of the process is time-sensitive. You may find these emails in your junk/spam folder.
  • Completing the background check and fingerprint requirements is a necessary step for all applications, including renewals. As a courtesy, we offer a one-time resubmission if applicants miss the posted deadlines sent to their emails. Please remember that it's your responsibility to keep an eye on your email folders and respond promptly.
  • For those who have exhausted their resubmission attempts for background and fingerprints, you are welcome to reapply for THW certification after a 90-day period from your initial application. We look forward to receiving your application. Applications submitted before the 90-day waiting period, unfortunately, cannot be accepted. Your diligence in monitoring emails and following the process is greatly appreciated.

Once OHA has approved your Traditional Health Worker application and supporting documents, you'll get an email from our Background Check unit. You must complete the background check application and return it to the THW Program. If you've lived outside of Oregon in the past five years, you'll also need to submit fingerprints. The background check is required even if you have had one in the past. This process will take about 4-8 weeks and all costs are covered by the Oregon Health Authority. More information regarding the criminal background check:

For more information regarding the certification process, view the Traditional Health Worker Certification FAQ.

Completing the Process

If you meet all the requirements and pass the background check, we'll notify you of your approval by email and add your information to the Authority's registry of certified traditional health workers.The THW registry is a reliable, trusted source for finding a traditional health worker in Oregon. You will also receive a hard copy letter with your certification ID number and an expiration date. Keep this for your records. Your certification is good for three years from the date of issue. During that time you will need to meet Continuing Education requirements in order to recertify. See THW Continuing Education and THW Recertification Process

All Certified Traditional Health Worker types are expected to abide by the following: 

Traditional Health Worker Standards of Professional Conduct 

Oregon 950-060-0010 rules

OHA certified THWs shall comply with Standards of Professional Conduct set forth in this rule. The violation of the standards may result in the suspension or revocation of certification or denial of an application for renewal.

 THWs shall:

  • Acquire, maintain, and improve professional knowledge and competence using scientific, clinical, technical, psychosocial, governmental, cultural, and community-based sources of information;
  • Represent all aspects of professional capabilities and services honestly and accurately;
  • Ensure that all actions are within their scope of practice with community members and are based on understanding and implementing the core values of caring, respect, compassion, ethical boundaries, and appropriate use of personal power;
  • Develop positive collaborative partnerships with community members, colleagues, and other health care providers to provide care, services, and supports that are safe, effective, and appropriate to a community member's needs;
  • Regardless of clinical diagnosis, develop and incorporate respect for diverse community member backgrounds when planning and providing services, including lifestyle, sexual orientation, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, age, marital status, political beliefs, socioeconomic status, or any other preference or personal characteristic, condition, or state;
  • Act as an advocate for community members and their needs;
  • Support self-determination for community members in a culturally responsive, trauma informed manner;
  • Make decisions and act based on sound ethical reasoning and current principles of practice in a way that supports empowerment and respect for community members' culture and self-defined health care goals;
  • Maintain individual confidentiality;
  • Comply with laws and regulations involving mandatory reporting of harm, abuse, or neglect while making every effort to involve the individuals in planning for services and ensuring that no further harm is done to family members as the result of the reporting;
  • Recognize and protect an individual's rights as described in section (3) of this rule.

Individuals have the right to:

  • Dignity and respect;
  • Freedom from theft, damage, or misuse of personal property;
  • Freedom from neglect and abuse, whether verbal, mental, emotional, physical, or sexual;
  • Freedom from financial exploitation;
  • Freedom from physical restraints;
  • Freedom from discrimination in regard to race, color, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, size, type of diagnosis criminal history or religion;
  • Confidentiality of their information and records; and
  • Give voice to grievances or complaints regarding services or any other issue without discrimination or reprisal for exercising their rights

Do you have a Civil Rights Complaint or concern regarding THW services?