Doctor and patient talkingThe Arkansas Disability and Health Program began in 1988 at the Arkansas Department of Health as a disability prevention program focused mainly on accident and fall prevention. Later the CDC shifted their interest to the prevention of secondary conditions and maintaining good health of people with disabilities. At this time the disability & health program moved from the Department of Health to Partners for Inclusive Communities – UAMS. Today our mission is the general health promotion of people with disabilities and prevention of secondary conditions, and we enjoy joint offices at the Arkansas Department of Health and Partners for Inclusive Communities. With the Department of Health being the public health agency for the state and Partners being the disability center of excellence for the state; this collaboration of interest and resources has proven to be an excellent partnership for the Arkansas Disability & Health Program.

Partners for Inclusive Communities is part of a nationwide network created and funded through the Administration on Developmental Disabilities. These organizations fall under the federal title of University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service. To learn more about this network, go to


Meet the Staff

Vanessa Smith

Program Director

Vanessa has worked in the human services arena for 22 years with people who have mental illness and individuals with developmental disabilities. Before joining the Arkansas Disability and Health Program, Vanessa directed the development of training curriculum for Direct Support Professional, front line direct care staff working with individuals who have developmental disabilities.

Julie Petty

Disability Specialist

Julie Petty graduated from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and has been a leader in the self-advocacy movement in Arkansas and nationally for several years. In 1998, she established Arkansas People First and helped it grow statewide. She has organized several state conferences, served on boards and advisory councils related to disability policy, and co-developed a training curriculum for self-advocates. Julie joined the staff at Partners in March of 2009 where she works on various projects to educate people with disabilities and others. Julie is an accomplished self-advocate from Arkansas and was the President of SABE (Self Advocates Becoming Empowered) from 2006-2008.

Brandy Kilpatrick

Program Manager

Brandy Kilpatrick graduated from the University of Arkansas with a Master’s of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling in 2012. Brandy has worked with individuals with disabilities in many capacities since beginning her career in 2006. She has extensive experience in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling, Supported Employment, Transition Counseling, and Case Management.

Sherice Smith

Program Specialist

Sherice Smith joined the Partners team in March 2017. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Services with a concentration in Human Resources from Antioch University and looks forward starting her Master’s program in Social Studies in the fall. Sherice has been in advocacy for more than a decade in independent living centers, healthcare and other nonprofits companies. As a person with a disability she believes inclusivity is the key to living a fuller, healthier and happier life.