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Candidates Say They’d Streamline Senior Services

The two leading candidates for governor tried to win over elder voters in Nashville Friday with messages of making services more accessible to them and their care givers, but both offered different approaches.

Democratic candidate Mike McWherter told seniors at the AARP “Conversation with Tennessee’s Next Governor” event that the state needs a cabinet-level officer and a full department devoted to coordinating senior services. Calling it “one-stop shopping,” he said its cost would be minimal, especially if it consolidates and reorganizes services that already exist.

“Frankly, I think consolidating a lot of these services may create some efficiencies that literally  pay for themselves,” he said, adding that the one agency could refer people to the services that they need.

Bill Haslam, a Republican mayor of Knoxville, told the same group he can’t promise that the state has the money to make any major changes right now, but said there are other creative ways to streamline services so seniors and their caregivers have an easier time navigating through the system.

“Everyone understands we’re in tight budget times, so we need to work smarter to solve these same issues,” he said.

While Haslam didn’t offer specifics, he did point to the development of a 311 phone number in Knoxville for people to call with questions about local government services and said the same approach might work with senior services statewide.

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