August 30, 2001

Merger Joins State's Aging And Public Health Programs

The Missouri Department of Health and Division of Aging will merge to become the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) on August 28, 2001. The Division of Aging, formerly under the Department of Social Services, is moving to the Department of Health as a result of an Executive Order signed January 5, 2001 by then-Governor Roger Wilson and subsequent legislation passed by the Missouri General Assembly. The reorganization will unite aging and public health programs for the state and allow both agencies to better integrate their services and resources.

"Moving the Division of Aging to the Department of Health will give us a better understanding of senior citizens' needs and help us develop more targeted interventions," said Dr. Maureen Dempsey, director of the department.

The move will elevate senior issues in the state and help the state better prepare for the future growth in the aging population. Missouri now has 984,000 seniors age 60 and older and the number is expected to increase by 65 percent in the next 25 years.

"Missourians are living healthier, longer lives," Dempsey said. "Combining senior and public health issues into one system will allow us to more effectively focus on prevention and how we can help all citizens live healthier. The two agencies already share a common mission - to promote and protect the health and quality of life for Missourians."

Persons who currently receive services through the Department of Health or the Division of Aging will continue to access these services in the same manner. Office phone numbers will remain the same. The Aging Information and Referral line (1-800-235-5503) and the Elderly Abuse and Neglect hotline (1-800-392-0210) will continue to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Department of Health and Senior Services' web site can be reached at www.dhss.state.mo.us.

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