Date Presented 04/22/2023

This research reports on outcomes of a 5-month Community of Practice (CoP) designed to increase OTs’ capacity to address school mental health using the public health model. Quantitative comparisons revealed increased knowledge and perceived ability to apply a public health approach to address mental health. A discussion about implementing school-based mental health supports using the public health model and Every Moment Counts resources through an OT CoP is included.

Primary Author and Speaker: Lauren Thomas

Given the prevalence of mental health issues, coupled with the impact of the global pandemic, schools are prioritizing the well-being of students. Occupational therapists (OTs) are frontline workers in the school system and have the expertise to support mental wellness (Bazyk et al., 2015). This research project aimed to build OT’s capacity to use a public health approach to address mental health in schools by implementing a 5-month virtual community of practice (CoP) modeled after the Every Moment Counts (EMC) initiative. Participants included seventeen school-based OTs from ten states across the U.S. Participants completed five 90-minute synchronous meetings with a webinar and 4 hours of asynchronous learning, including answering discussion questions, completing readings, and sharing knowledge (Nielsen & Bazyk, 2019). Participants completed a pretest, posttest, and follow-up survey that measured their knowledge, beliefs, and perceived ability to apply a public health approach to address school mental health. Results indicated statistically significant improvements in the knowledge and action content areas, further supported by qualitative analysis. Participants reported increased use of a strengths-based and occupation-based practice, growth in meaningful conversations with colleagues about OT’s role in mental health, and greater understanding and application of multi-tiered support, including critical initiatives of EMC. Results revealed that the virtual building capacity process improved participants’ knowledge and enabled them to develop actionable steps to use a public health approach to address mental health in schools. Findings support the use of virtual CoPs to foster knowledge translation among OTs. After this session, participants will be able to describe 1-2 benefits of implementing a CoP to increase practitioner knowledge about school-based mental health supports.


Bazyk, S., Pataki, K., & DeBoth, K. (2020). Building capacity of occupational therapy students to address the mental health needs of children and youth during a level II fieldwork in a school setting. Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention, 13(4), 443-461.

Bazyk, S., Demirjian, L., LaGuardia, T., Thompson-Repas, K., Conway, C., & Michaud, P. (2015). Building capacity of occupational therapy practitioners to address the mental health needs of children and youth: A mixed-methods study of knowledge translation. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69(6), 1-10.

Nielsen, S., & Bazyk, S. (2019). Building capacity of school personnel to promote positive mental health in children and youth (self-paced) [Webinar]. Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network.

Wenger, E., Trayner, B., & de Laat, M. (2011). Promoting and assessing value creation in communities and networks: A conceptual framework. Ruud de Moor Centrum.