Tennessee prosecutors have decided not to charge an Algonquin, Ill. woman who abandoned her 19-year-old daughter, who has severe developmental disabilities, in a bar and refused to take her back.
Police found Lynn Cameron at the Big Orange Bar in Caryville, Tenn. on June 28, where her mother had sent her to use the bathroom and then reportedly drove back to Illinois without her, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.
Lynn Cameron has cerebral palsy, visual impairment and is non-verbal, and for 10 days police canvassed the area and fielded tips before she could be identified and her mother, Eva Cameron, could be contacted.
On Tuesday, Eva Cameron returned to Tennessee, but not to claim Lynn--instead, the 45-year-old mother, who has another child with special needs, told police she intended to leave Lynn there, and signed her over as a ward of the state, saying she couldn't care for her anymore, CBS Chicago reports.
Cameron's actions were widely criticized, including by Tennessee police, who initially threatened to press charges, according to the Associated Press. But prosecutors later determined that because Lynn is over 18, Eva Cameron had not committed a crime and could not be charged.
Describing the situation to the Northwest Herald, Cameron painted a different picture of the incident. She says she drove to Tennessee and left her daughter in the state's care because it has the "No. 1 health care system in the United States of America," and would be better able to provide for Lynn than her family, which was overextended caring for her sibling.
"We need to change the law so that if a mother has two children that have issues with disabilities, that there needs to be more help offered by the state," Cameron told the newspaper. "They just say, 'You don't qualify.' "
While Cameron's actions may be ethically questionable, they reflect an increasingly common struggle for Illinoisans living with mental health issues or relatives who need care. According to a 2011 report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) titled "State Mental Health Cuts: A National Crisis," Illinois tops the nation in mental health cuts following the closure of six of the Chicago's 12 mental health clinics and two state institutions this year.
Lynn Cameron is currently at the Michael Dunn Facility in Roane County, Tenn. while officials make plans for her long-term care, WVLT-TV reports. Two of Illinois' comparable live-in care facilities were closed in a cost-cutting move earlier this month that displaced roughly 600 patients to shave $20 million off the state budget.
Flickr photo by Emily Baron.
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