Jamie Morrison Ward

Jamie is the founder and president of Curricula Concepts, Inc.  Jamie has over 20 years of experience in early care and education in a variety of roles- Head Start teacher and center director, Arkansas Better Chance Program Administrator for the AR Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education, Adjunct Instructor for AR State University-Beebe and University of Central Arkansas. The main focus of her current work is building positive relationships between early educators and families using several evidence-based models.

Career Highlights

  • Created partnerships through Curricula Concepts, Inc. with University of AR-Early Care and Education Projects, UAMS Department of Family and Preventative Medicine/Division of Community Research, and the AR Head Start State Collaboration Office.
  • Consultant for Zero To Three: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families.
  • Served as Past President and Policy Chair of the AR Early Childhood Association and is a current member of the following organizations/associations:  Arkansas State Parent Advisory Council, AR Equity Leaders Action Network, AR State Professional Development Steering Committee, Southern Early Childhood Association, National Association of Early Childhood State Specialists, Delta Kappa Gamma.

Vice President

Nicola Edge, PhD

Nikki is founder and director of Project PLAY, a nationally recognized cutting-edge Early Childhood Mental Health consultation program. Her work has stimulated greater coordination between child welfare and early care and education systems in Arkansas and improved the quality and efficiency of services provided to children with risks.

Career Highlights

  • Associate Professor in the UAMS Department of Family and Preventative Medicine/Division of Community Research.
  • More than 45 publications in peer-reviewed journals on substance abuse treatment for women and children, children impacted by maternal substance use and trauma, early childhood mental health consultation, and parenting interventions.
  • Director of REACH, a training program designed to help early child care providers learn to support children’s social and emotional development.


Ph.D., Educational Psychology and Research (University of Memphis)

Past-President, Education Committee Chair

Teri Patrick, M.Ed.

Teri has over 25 years of experience in the early childhood field as a teacher, special educator, center director, adult trainer, and in training development.

Career Highlights

  • Research Associate for UAMS Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, Community Research Group.  Project manager and lead role in development, implementation, and evaluation of REACH, a teacher training curriculum with goal of enhancing capacity of early childhood providers to support children’s social-emotional development.
  • Member of National Association for the Education of Young Children, NAEYC (founding board member and former president of local affiliate) and the Southern Early Childhood Association, SECA.


B.S.E. in Early Childhood Education; M.Ed., Early Childhood Special Education (University of Arkansas at Little Rock)


Erin Cole, M.Ed.

Erin is the co-administrator of KIDS FIRST, Arkansas’s first pediatric day health care program and the state’s only academic CHMS program for children with special health care needs. Erin values the collaboration of programs across the state to improve the outcomes for young children and their families. She brings experience to the group in the areas of technology, human resources, program management, finance, and program development.

Career Highlights

  • KIDS FIRST, Co-Administrator; Finance, Education, and Human Resources
  • 10 years experience in public and private education of young children.
  • Surveyor for Commission for Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)


B.S.E in Early Childhood Education; M.Ed in Workforce Development Education (University of Arkansas)


Candace Johnson, LCSW

Candace has a strong interest in child welfare, where as an undergraduate social work student where she did two internships with the Division of Children and Family Services and again in her MSW graduate internship with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. She has worked in the field of early intervention, early childhood programs, and medical social work. She has been the Team Lead for both the Family Map Inventories and Project PLAY at UAMS Dept. of Family and Preventive Medicine Research and Education Division, working with early childhood programs to promote strong partnerships between child care providers and families. She is currently a Clinical Oncology Social Worker at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.

Career Highlights

  • Certified as an Arkansas Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant
  • 10+ years experience in early intervention and early childhood education


B.A., Social Work (University of Arkansas); M.S.W. program (University of Arkansas at Little Rock)

Members at Large

Bonnie Limbird, LCSW

Bonnie has worked with children and families for 35 years in a variety of settings including diagnostic, therapeutic, and administrative.  As one of the founding members of AAIMH, she is a believer in the power of collaborative relationships.

Career Highlights

  • Former Program Manager for Social Work at KIDS FIRST, UAMS, a pediatric day health care program for children with special health care needs.
  • Past president of NASW Arkansas and former regional representative to national NASW
  • Serves on the Community Advisory Board of the Graduate School of Social Work at UALR


B.A. (Southern Arkansas University); M.S.W. (University of Arkansas at Little Rock)

Patty McCook, LCSW, DCSW – AAIMH Communication Committee Chair

Career Highlights

  • Patty is currently a social work supervisor at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and is the Growth and Development social worker.
  • She has a small private practice in Little Rock and has done numerous presentations throughout the country.
  • Her professional interests include adoption, foster care, infant mental health, attachment theory and nonorganic failure to thrive.


MSW from Yeshiva University in New York City and an MEd in Counseling from South Dakota State university.

Martha Hiett

During her career in public health and early childhood education, Martha directed the Arkansas Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Grant (AECCS), with emphasis on early education quality, medical homes for children, and social-emotional health.  Through this grant, she promoted coordinated efforts among public and private groups and entities to improve linkages for a comprehensive early childhood system. Recognizing the importance of the Initiative’s focus on social-emotional health, Martha became one of the founding members of AAIMH.

Career Highlights

  • Retired Health Policy Administrator, Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education,  Department of Human Services
  • Twenty-nine years of experience in public health and early childhood education/child care
  • Former president of the AR Public Health Association; former Arkansas representative to the American Public Health Association; active volunteer for the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas
  • Member of the Board of Reach Out and Read Arkansas


B.S.E. (Henderson State University)

Christopher Lloyd, Ph.D., LCSW

Chris brings substantial expertise with the research and practice literature in early childhood and child welfare together with expertise in advanced analytic and statistical methodology.

Career Highlights

  • Associate Professor, School of Social Work, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  • Project Director, Building Bridges to Better Beginnings project
  • Expertise in child development, child welfare, and quantitative research


M.A., Clinical Social Work (University of Chicago); Ph.D., Social Work (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Merry Alice Hesselbein, J.D.

Merry Alice has been champion of children throughout her 35 years of serving as an Attorney ad Litem in Dependency-Neglect proceedings in the Juvenile courts system. She has been active in defining continuing education for attorneys and judges as related to treatment and care for families and children.  Merry Alice and was a founding member of the AR Association for Infant Mental Health.

Career Highlights

  • Represents juveniles in dependency/neglect cases before the 11th Division Circuit Court, Pulaski County, Arkansas
  • Administrative Office of the Courts Attorney ad Litem
  • AAIMH Conference Committee Co-Chair


J.D. (University of Arkansas)

Nicholas Long, Ph.D. 

Dr. Long has over 30 years of experience as a researcher, educator, and clinician in the area of parenting young children.  He has been the recipient of over $10 million in federal grant funds for various projects involved in the areas of parenting and early childhood over his years of service.

Career Highlights

  • Professor of Pediatrics, Director of Pediatric Psychology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Arkansas Children’s Hospital
  • Serves as Director of the Center for Effective Parenting and the Arkansas Home Visiting Network Training Institute
  • Authored over 80 publications and has co-authored/edited three books on parenting.


Ph.D.,  Clinical Child Psychology (University of Georgia)

Ann Patterson, MHSA

Ann has focused on program development and policy issues across the lifespan throughout her career.  Her most personally rewarding experience has been work in the areas of children’s mental health and positive social emotional development for infants and toddlers.

Career Highlights:

  • Young Child Wellness Expert, Project LAUNCH Arkansas
  • Board of Trustees, University of the Ozarks
  • Assistant Director of Children’s Services and Interim Director for Arkansas Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health Services
  • Director, Arkansas Head Start State Collaboration Office


B.S. (University of the Ozarks); M.H.S.A. (University of Arkansas at Little Rock)

Darneshia Bell

Darneshia Bell has over 20 years of experience working with young children.  Her background includes intensive work with families in urban community outreach organizations, experience as an elementary school teacher and the development of a pre-K 4 program in Oklahoma.  Bell has presented on the safety and well-being of infants and toddlers in child welfare on local and national levels, including the Birth To Three Institute and the Annual Children’s Defense Fund National Conference. She is also a member of the Invest Early Initiative, the Governor’s Work-Life Balance Initiative, the Judicial Improvement Committee, the Strengthening Families Coalition, AR NEST (AR Network for Early Stress and Trauma) Steering Committee and the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Social and Emotional Workgroup.

Career Highlights

  • Community Outreach Coordinator for the ZERO TO THREE Safe Babies Court Team in Little Rock, AR.
  • 4 years experience as an elementary school teacher and previously held the position of the Director of the St. Francis Pre-K 4 program in Oklahoma.
  • A trainer for improving outcomes for infants and toddlers in child welfare on a local and national level.


B.S. (University of Central Arkansas)

Jill Fussell, M.D.

Jill is a developmental pediatrician and currently serves as Medical Director of the James L. Dennis Developmental Center, the primary diagnostic center in Arkansas for children with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities. She has served in state and national leadership positions in Early Childhood, including positions in the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Society of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics.

Career Highlights

  • Associate Professor in the UAMS Department of Pediatrics, Division of Developmental Pediatrics and Rehabilitative Medicine
  • Medical Director of the James L. Dennis Developmental Center
  • Currently serving on the Arkansas Early Childhood Commission
  • Very involved in education of current and future pediatricians in the state of Arkansas, including serving as Director of the Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics Fellowship Program, and involved in pediatric medical education at the national level


M.D. (University of Arkansas Medical Sciences); Residency in Pediatrics, Fellowship in Developmental Pediatrics (Medical University of South Carolina)