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First Annual South Dakota Community Health Worker Conference A Success

​The South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations (SDAHO) recently attended the first annual South Dakota Community Health Worker (CHW) Conference sponsored by the Community Health Worker Collaborative of South Dakota (CHWSD).    The one-day event held April 28, 2022, in Sioux Falls brought together healthcare advocates from across the state to gather and talk about the future of the CHW profession. Ben Tiensvold the Community Outreach Coordinator at CHWSD was pleased with this year’s event.  “The conference far exceeded our expectations for the first annual SD CHW Conference. We had a great variety of speakers and presenters who really shared a lot of great information about the CHW profession.” Ben Tiensvold – Community Outreach Coordinator, CHWSD

What is a CHW? The short answer, CHW’s bridge the gap between communities and health/social service systems. A CHW is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of a community with a close understanding of the community they serve. This trusted relationship enables the worker to serve as a liaison/link/intermediary between health/social services and the community to facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competence for the patient being served.  CHW is not a new concept nationally, but in South Dakota the CHW formal program is relatively new.  Many CHW and CHW-like positions have been established across South Dakota through private and grant funding, but, prior to April 2019, no formal CHW reimbursements were available. Beginning in April 2019, the South Dakota Department of Social Services (SD DSS), Division of Medical Services announced that CHW services provided by a CHW agency enrolled with South Dakota Medicaid will be reimbursable.

This year’s conference hosted 200 attendees with 8 educational booths to share resources for developing programs.  Michelle Archuleta who serves as a public health advisor with the Division of Clinical and Community Services in the Indian Health Services was one of this  year’s guest presenters. Michelle spoke in great details to the work our state’s Community Health Representative’s (CHR) are doing across the state. “CHR’s have worked in South Dakota for 54 years. We were so fortunate to have Michelle Archuleta agree to present. It was great to have her highlight on the great work of the CHR’s and reiterate their longstanding history in South Dakota.” Ben Tiensvold – Community Outreach Coordinator, CHWSD

South Dakota has approximately 85 CHR’s spread across nine tribal reservations. By June 1, 2022, there will be 36 CHW’s spread across South Dakota.  CHW’s and CHR’s can connect with any organization within their community to provide resources and patient navigation. “Whether it is a large health system or a small community-based food bank, the CHW’s and CHR’s build bridges and connect organizations to better support the patients/clients they serve.” Ben Tiensvold – Community Outreach Coordinator, CHWSD

The CHWSD is working to develop the CHW workforce across South Dakota, with open positions available. Those interested and hired will receive training to work as a CHW.

To learn more about the CHW workforce or for those interested in becoming a CHW, visit www.chwsd.org to learn more and email info@chwsd.org to be connected with open CHW positions in South Dakota.

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