Merkley, Wyden, Bonamici: $2 Million for Community Health Clinic Training and Professional Development

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and Representative Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) announced that OCHIN, Inc has received $2,001,642 from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to support OCHINS’s health information technology recruitment and training program for health clinics in underserved communities. Together, Merkley, Wyden, and Bonamici secured this funding for OCHIN in Congress’ fiscal year 2023 omnibus appropriations package as a community-initiated project (CIP).

“No one knows the unique needs of communities across Oregon like the folks living and working in them. Community-initiated projects—generated at the local level—are homegrown solutions by Oregonians who are working to make their communities better,” said Merkley, who has secured investments for this and other Oregon projects in government funding bills. “It’s great to see OCHIN’s project is now underway, and I look forward to hearing how their great work will train the next generation of staff at community health clinics in Oregon.”

“In my 1,000+ town halls throughout the state, I hear from Oregonians about staffing needs and health care shortages,” Wyden said. “Training crucial health care staff to support Oregon communities, both physically and economically, addresses this need on two fronts, which is why I fought for this investment.”

“Health clinics need staff knowledgeable about information technology to keep accurate patient records and coordinate quality care,” said Bonamici. “Without skilled staff in these positions, clinicians need to take on additional administrative tasks, contributing to burnout and risking health outcomes for patients. I helped secure nearly $2 million for OCHIN to address this shortage and help workers—particularly those from underserved communities—gain the skills they need to have successful careers in health information technology.”

A breakdown of the project can be found below:

Community Health Clinic Health Information Technology Training and Professional Development for Operational and Support Staff to Drive Equity and Value-based Payment and Delivery Reform Transformations:

  • This project is based in Portland but will have statewide benefits aiming to fill a gap in administrative and operational staff at clinics and provide career opportunities that do not require a college degree.
  • Community clinics in Oregon were devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and lost many operational and support staff, and as a result are now struggling to fill vacancies. 42% of Oregon clinics reported needing more non-clinical staff now compared to a year ago. OCHIN looks to fill this gap by providing recruitment, training, and experiential learning placements for operational and support staff for community clinic and public health agencies. OCHIN’s program will provide career ladders and training for positions in electronic health record analysis, health information management, and medical billing and coding.

“OCHIN is grateful to Senators Merkley and Wyden, and Representative Bonamici for their strong support in building Oregon’s health care workforce of the future. Together, and with their leadership, OCHIN will continue to provide the health information technology skills training necessary to ensure sustainable access to care, while supporting job creation and growth in Oregon’s rural and underserved communities,” said Jennifer Stoll, Chief External Affairs Officer, OCHIN.

Merkley is the only Oregon member of Congress from either chamber to serve on the Appropriations Committee since Senator Mark Hatfield, which is one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill. He joined the committee in 2013 so that Oregon would have a strong voice in decisions about the investments our nation should be making.