Press Release - 04.03.24

Doug Simmonsen Named 2024 National Direct Support Professional of the Year by Leading National Association for Disability Service Providers

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Nevada professional joins class of 55 honorees being recognized for empowering community inclusion for people with intellectual, developmental disabilities

ALEXANDRIA, VA. – ANCOR, the leading national voice for providers of intellectual and developmental disabilities services, has named Doug Simmonsen the recipient of the association’s 2024 National Direct Support Professional of the Year Award. Simmonsen, who works for Mendota Heights, Minn.-based Dungarvin, will be honored alongside 54 other honorees in a ceremony on April 10 at ANCOR’s annual conference in Santa Fe, N.M.

Since 2022, Simmonsen has worked as a direct support professional (DSP) and host home provider for Dungarvin, which delivers long-term services and supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in 15 states. Simmonsen was selected for this national honor from among a record-breaking 492 nominations, affirming his status as an exemplar of excellence in the field of direct support.

Simmonsen’s nomination noted a number of outstanding qualities that made him an ideal candidate for the 2024 National Direct Support Professional of the Year Award. His colleagues noted that he strives to ensure the people in his care have access to the best natural supports possible and, relatedly, a strong sense of community thanks to meaningful relationships across a variety of life contexts. Simmonsen’s colleagues also lauded him as a key member of every care team on which he participates, paying close attention to the mental and physical health needs of each person Dungarvin supports, as well as to people’s needs that lead them to live a life of their choosing.

This commitment was perhaps most evident in his nomination’s description of the support that Simmonsen offered to a disabled man who happens to identify as transgender. Recognizing the intersecting ways in which transpeople and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities see their access to community limited, Simmonsen worked diligently to ensure the man he supports found a sense of community, not only in the Reno area where he lives, but also within the LGBTQ+ community. “[Simmonsen] was able to radically transform the life of a 65-year-old transgender male living with debilitating anxiety into an emotionally thriving, contributing member of his community, while fostering a safe haven for other LGBTQ+ individuals in our services,” Simmonsen’s colleagues noted.

The nomination went on to further explain why Simmonsen’s work has been crucially important for LGBTQ+ people supported by Dungarvin. “Too often, state agencies reduce [the individuals accepting our services] to just their disability,” the nomination stated. “This previous paradigm ignored the need for individuals to express their true identities and denied their inherent right to personhood,” but Simmonsen helped to pioneer a new approach that emphasizes seeing the whole person, including in this case by supporting LGBTQ+ community involvement.

“Each year, we are seeing more nominations, and more compelling nominations, for ANCOR’s DSP of the Year Awards,” said Diane Beastrom, president of ANCOR’s Board of Directors and vice president of transition for Ohio-based I Am Boundless. “But [Simmonsen’s] nomination just blew us away. I cannot think of a more deserving professional to honor, as Doug truly exemplifies what it means to see, appreciate and value the people we are fortunate enough to support.”

Barbara Merrill, chief executive officer for ANCOR, added: “DSPs really and truly do it all, and it’s no exaggeration to say that this year’s of class of honorees deliver transformative and sometimes life-saving supports to the people who accept their services. People like Doug [Simmonsen] and all 55 of the 2024 honorees are perfect reminders of why ANCOR works tirelessly to advocate on behalf of the direct support workforce and the incredible work our DSPs do to support people in community.”

Underwritten by ANCOR Diamond Partner Relias, ANCOR’s annual Direct Support Professional of the Year Awards program has since 2007 recognized outstanding individuals who deliver long-term services and supports to people with I/DD. The awards celebrate the important role DSPs play in ensuring people with I/DD can access all the amenities of their community.

The full list of 2024 DSP of the Year honorees can be found below, and each of the award recipients are profiled in our digital magazine, Recognizing Excellence 2024. The awards ceremony will take place in Santa Fe, N.M., on Wednesday, April 10 at 8:30 am MDT during ANCOR Connect ’24, the association’s annual conference. Members of the press interested in attending the awards presentation should contact Sean Luechtefeld, ANCOR’s vice president for membership and communications, at [email protected] or 571.207.9108.

National Direct Support Professional of the Year
  • Doug Simmonsen, Dungarvin, Reno, Nev.
Special Category Award Honorees
  • International DSP of the Year: Vinakshi Singh, Keystone Institute India, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
  • Innovation: Anthony Chavez, ENMRSH, Inc., Clovis, N.M.
  • Leadership: Arnold Bulley, Living Innovations, Houlton, Maine
  • Person-Centeredness: Teresa “Teri” Cunningham, Cindy and Vic’s R&R, Anchorage, Alaska
  • Relationships: Adrian Brogan, Pony Bird, Inc., Mapaville, Mo.
State Direct Support Professional of the Year Award Honorees
  • Alabama: Destiny Flowers, Volunteers of America Southeast, Enterprise
  • Alaska: Diana Medina, Hope Community Resources, Anchorage
  • Arizona: Sarah Scott, Mosaic, Phoenix
  • Arkansas: Yohannes Seifu, Arkansas Support Network, Springdale
  • California: Mark Wong Campoy, Exceptional Children’s Foundation, Culver City
  • Colorado: Charles Mathis, Continuum of Colorado, Aurora
  • Connecticut: Ty’Naja Williams, Dungarvin, Waterbury
  • Delaware: Tyiesha Dunson, Mosaic, Newark
  • District of Columbia: Anthony Fields, RCM of Washington
  • Florida: Tammy Walker, BrightSpring Health Services, Ocala
  • Georgia: Jessica Edwards, River Edge Behavioral Health, Macon
  • Hawaii: Vince Zamora, Full Life, Pahoa
  • Idaho: Patricia Torres, Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, Boise
  • Illinois: Valerie Woodkirk, Trinity Services, New Lenox
  • Indiana: Terri Baber, Dungarvin, Logansport
  • Iowa: Regan Trexel, UI REACH at the University of Iowa, Iowa City
  • Kansas: Sharon Holley, Johnson County Developmental Supports, Lenexa
  • Kentucky: Anthony Flannery, Dungarvin, Sandy Hook
  • Louisiana: Yolanda Polk, BrightSpring Health Services, Lafayette
  • Maine: Jessica Hammond, Uplift, Inc., Gardiner
  • Maryland: Dayna Lipscomb, Aspire Living & Learning, Parkville
  • Massachusetts: Gail Wallace, Aspire Living & Learning, Leominster
  • Michigan: Angela Sovine, BrightSpring Health Services, Saginaw
  • Minnesota: Allison Inserra, TSE, Inc., Roseville
  • Mississippi: Timothy Burns, Sevita, Flowood
  • Missouri: Gwen Hamer, St. Louis Arc, St. Louis
  • Montana: Tanya McGuire, BrightSpring Health Services, Missoula
  • Nebraska: Linda Lannin, BrightSpring Health Services, Lincoln
  • Nevada: Paula Peace, Dungarvin, Las Vegas
  • New Hampshire: Keaton Pease, Life Connections Specialized Support Services, Hampton Falls
  • New Jersey: Ngozi Osabu, Dungarvin, Willingboro
  • New Mexico: Todd Dickson, ARCA, Albuquerque
  • New York: Maria Fernandes, Ability Beyond Disability, Chappaqua
  • North Carolina: Kelley McGuire, Dungarvin, Wilmington
  • Ohio: Margaret West, BrightSpring Health Services, Blaine
  • Oklahoma: Shonda Amspacher, Dungarvin, Norman
  • Oregon: Emily Goldstein, Dungarvin, Portland
  • Pennsylvania: John Palmer, BCRC, Conway
  • South Carolina: Deandrea Young, Community Options, Inc., Columbia
  • South Dakota: Michael Row, Vista Care, Pierre
  • Tennessee: Samantha Townsend, Emory Valley Center, Petros
  • Texas: Breland Davis, Community Options, Inc., Corpus Christi
  • Utah: Jazmin Knox, Chrysalis, Cedar City
  • Vermont: Steve Robinson, Upper Valley Services, Moretown
  • Virginia: Jonee Justin, Hope House Foundation, Norfolk
  • Washington: Mariana Santana, Dungarvin, Pasco
  • West Virginia: Shannon Neece, BrightSpring Health Services, Princeton
  • Wisconsin: Raymona Conn, Vista Care, Sheboygan
  • Wyoming: Misty Ramirez, Overture, Cheyenne



For more than 50 years, the American Network of Community Options and Resources ( has been a leading advocate for the critical role service providers play in enriching the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). As a national nonprofit trade association, ANCOR exists to advance the ability of its nearly 2,500 member organizations to support people with I/DD to fully participate in their communities.