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Voters Will Decide On Aging Department

October 15, 1996
By: Tracy Sadeghian
State Capital Bureau

An issue affecting almost 900-thousand Missourians will be on the ballot November 5th.

If approved by voters, constitutional amendment number five would create a separate State Department of Aging.

Senior citizens now access services through the Aging Division -- one of nine divisions under the Department of Social Services.

But the ballot proposal would eliminate this division and replace it with a new department.

Most seniors are backing the measure, but some elderly and politicians oppose it, claiming a new department will just create more bureaucracy.

K-B-I-A's Tracy Sadeghian has the story.


The new Aging Department would offer the same services as the current Aging Division.

But advocates say elevating senior-related services to a department level will make it easier for clients to access all services by providing "one-stop-shopping".

Seniors say an Aging Department will give them a stronger presence in state government because it would be a cabinet-level department, giving them a voice at the governor's table.

Marilyn Dreyer is a fourth-grade teacher from Warrenton. She's one of the senior citizens supporting the measure.

RunTime: 25
OutCue: " tape."
Contents: "I like the prospect of this of the high visibility of this department of aging. I do think that we get lost in a bureaucracy a great deal. I would like to see a higher level. As you get older, you want it to be more compact and not have to go through so many places and go through so much red tape."

But not all elderly agree with Dreyer, including one senior citizen, who asked that her name not be used.

Actuality: Unidentified woman
RunTime: 17
OutCue: "...those departments"
Contents: "I think they have a prominent role already. I don't think there's a necessity to create another department when they already have access to all those departments."

Politicians are also at odds over the issue.

Lieutenant Governor Roger Wilson spear headed the efforts within state government to create an Aging Department.

RunTime: 31
OutCue: "...for seniors"
Contents: "We broke out the department of health when it was a division. We broke out the department of corrections when it was a division. And each of these evolved into a societal need. I think the senior need is greater than either one of those was when they became departments. And there's something in me too that says if we can have a department for 20,000 incarcerated inmates, then I'm very curious as to why we don't have a department for seniors."

But Wilson's idea ran into opposition during the last legislative session.

Springfield Senator Roseann Bentley says she's an advocate for senior citizens. She says creating a new department is not the answer.

RunTime: 31
OutCue: "...the opposite."
Contents: "I believe the Division of Aging could do exactly what the department is doing without the added cost and added staff members that a new department would create. This is a time, especially for Republicans, to think about down sizing government and reducing the size of bureaucracy and I'm fearful this new department could do just the opposite.

In response to arguments raised by Bentley and others, Wislon says there are safeguards built into the proposed legislation to discourage the department's bureaucratic growth.

Actuality: Wilson
OutCue: "...or lowered."
Contents: "They did something that hasn't been done before in state government. They said you can't increase the number of employees you have unless you come back through the legislative process and ask for the cap to be raised or lowered."

Senator Bentley disagrees.

RunTime: 15
OutCue: "...will happen."
Contents: "If you look back historically that's always been said, but then it changes. Just as you said it's up to a vote of the legislature after three years and it can grow and I'm just fearful that's exactly what will happen."

Missourians will settle the issue when they head to the polls November 5th. For K-B-I-A Radio's Capital Edition, I'm Tracy Sadeghian.