Last week, the Tennessee General Assembly passed Lynn’s Law, named after 19-year-old Lynn Cameron, a mentally disabled Illinois woman who was abandoned in a Caryville bar last summer by her mother, Eva Cameron.
“It’s something we’ve been working on for a long time,” Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro said. “It’s not just a cruel and (inhuman) thing to do to these people...it costs the Tennessee taxpayers.”
It costs about $85,000 a year to house a disabled adult, Powers said. When someone from out of state is abandoned here, it creates an emergency situation—putting them ahead of the 7,200 local adults who are awaiting help from adult protective services, Powers said.
State resources were also exhausted transporting Lynn Cameron back to Illinois, Powers said.
Powers began to work on Lynn’s Law to change legislation, so parents couldn’t abandon their adult children in Tennessee in the future.
“Tennessee could be a place people come and (drop off) adults,” Powers said.
Since that incident, it has happened again—at the Nashville Airport.
“It’s a tragedy it happened to begin with,” Powers said. “We want to make sure that (act) can be prosecuted and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Eva Cameron escaped prosecution because of a loophole in the law. While it was illegal to abandon a child, there was no law against abandoning an adult. However, Lynn Cameron’s situation was unique because she was disabled and required a caretaker.
Lynn’s Law does two things. It redefines abuse and neglect—a class E felony—to include abandonment. The bill also defines caretakers. When Lynn was abandoned, the definition of caretakers was vague—including relatives, non-relatives and people who comes by once a week. Under Lynn’s Law, there is an agreement holding a particular person responsible for the care of another.
Lynn’s Law takes effect July 1.
Powers hopes to have Gov. Bill Haslam sign the bill into law in Caryville.