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Abandoned special needs woman inspires new Tennessee law

2:15 PM, May 21, 2013   |    comments
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Last June, authorities were called to a Campbell County bar when a young woman walked in.  She couldn't tell anyone her name, where she was from, or how she got there.

Investigators finally identified her as Lynn Cameron, 19, of Illinois.  She is mentally disabled, with the mental capacity of a two-year-old.  Her mother, they learned, was no longer able to care for her, so simply dropped her off at the Big Orange Bar in Caryville, and drove away.

Cameron's mother, Eva, was not charged with leaving her daughter, because she broke no laws on the Tennessee books.

Now, that's changed.

On Tuesday, Governor Bill Haslam ceremonially signed "Lynn's Law" at the Caryville City Hall. 

The bill makes it illegal for a person who has assumed responsibility for and is knowledgeable of another's inability to care for him or herself to abandon that person.

The law adds abandonment to the current statute that covers abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult person or persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

"I want to thank the General Assembly for passing this sensible piece of legislation," Haslam said. "One of the state's primary responsibilities is caring for the most vulnerable, and this bill gives us a tool to help protect those with developmental and intellectual disabilities from being abandoned."

While she was in Tennessee, Lynn Cameron was in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Human Services.  Eventually, officials in Illinois found a suitable residence for her, and she returned to her home state.

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