Some of those who care for elderly people who stay in their own homes think Governor Blunt’s effort to save money by combining hotline telephone services of two high-profile departments into one hotline operation is a failure. They’ve let some important lawmakers know about it. The Department of Health and Senior Services had a hotline to take calls on elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. The Governor’s executive order two years ago made those staff members responsible, too, for calls about long-term and in-home care. Spokesman Mary Kay Kramme (Cray-me) with the Missouri Council for In-Home Services says the new operation is failing those who need it. She and others have told the Senate Appropriations Committee that hotline callers should not have to wait “for days” to be heard, especially home care providers who are state-mandated reporters of suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Brenda Campbell, whose division runs the hotline, says she was not aware of the problem until recently. She says she has met with providers about the problems and has discussed alternatives, including a system where information can be faxed to the department when the lines are busy. “But,” she says, “I don’t want busy signals at my hotline.” She says she has her manager working on the problem. The 16 people answering the phones handle more than 34-hundred calls a month. Campbell wants a new system that puts callers into a queue until operators can get to their calls. The legislature will have to decide whether to spend the money on it—or keep saving.
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