News & Press

National Disability Provider Association Names Jessica Edwards Recipient of 2024 Georgia Direct Support Professional of the Year Award

MACON, GA – The American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), the leading voice in Washington for community-based disability services providers, has announced that Jessica Edwards, a direct support professional at River Edge Behavioral Health, has been named the recipient of the 2024 Georgia Direct Support Professional of the Year Award. Edwards joins 54 other honorees in the 2024 edition of ANCOR’s annual Direct Support Professional of the Year Awards Program. This year’s awards garnered a record-breaking 492 nominations.


“It’s hard to put into words how proud River Edge Behavioral Health is of Jessica. We are thrilled to celebrate her outstanding achievement, of course; but more importantly, we recognize that her dedication is powering true community inclusion for the individuals we support with intellectual/developmental disabilities, which is truly inspiring,” said Cass Hatcher, River Edge Behavioral Health Chief Executive Officer. “We cannot think of anyone who more clearly demonstrates the transformative power of community-based supports, and we’re so grateful that ANCOR has recognized Jessica with this national honor.”


Since 2007, ANCOR’s annual DSP of the Year Awards recognize outstanding direct support professionals (DSPs) who deliver long-term services and supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The awards celebrate the important role DSPs play in ensuring people with I/DD have what they need to thrive and be included in the community. These awards also seek to raise awareness about a direct support workforce in crisis. Inadequate investments in this essential workforce have led to a decades-long severe shortage of DSPs, which has only been amplified by the COVID-19 Pandemic and has accelerated into a crisis that threatens access to critically needed services.


“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 Jessica Edward’s nomination just blew us away. I cannot think of a more deserving professional to honor, as she 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 class of honorees delivers transformative and sometimes lifesaving supports to the people who accept their services. People like Jessica 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 the community.”


The awards ceremony where Jessica and the other 2024 honorees to be recognized will take place is in Santa Fe, N.M., on Wednesday, April 10, 2024, 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 or 571-207-9108.



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.

About River Edge Behavioral Health

The full continuum of River Edge Behavioral Health services provides state-of-the-art treatment and supports for children, youth, families and adults who experience mental illness, addiction, co-occurring disorders or intellectual or developmental disabilities. A repetitive national award winner identified for its exemplary leadership by its international accrediting body, River Edge services extend throughout Georgia, including Baldwin, Crawford, Houston, Jones, Macon-Bibb, Monroe, Peach, Putnam, Twiggs, Wilkinson and Fulton counties. Learn more at For help, call 478-803-7600.

About River Edge Foundation

River Edge Foundation, an independent, 501(c)3 non-profit organization, raises private funds to help make life better for individuals who experience mental illness, addiction or an intellectual or developmental disability, especially individuals served and supported through the robust, community-based offerings of River Edge Behavioral Health. The Foundation strives for excellence in fundraising, investing and stewarding contributions and assets governing the Foundation, as well as forming lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with community partners, constituencies and stakeholders.