The National Cancer Legal Services Network (NCLSN), a coalition of attorneys, legal service programs, cancer support organizations and health care providers, has announced the creation of a valuable new website for people with cancer: www.NCLSN.org. This website, the first of its kind, makes it simple to locate much needed free legal services. For a person with cancer, unresolved legal problems can create undue stress and ultimately result in an inability to access or maintain treatment.

In just one example, Maria, a 45-year-old single mother with terminal cancer had no will, health care proxy or power of attorney, and had accumulated large debts as a result of her inability to work after chemotherapy treatments. Of paramount concern to her was who would take care of her 12-year-old daughter. A local legal program in her community helped Maria resolve the problems that threatened her quality of life and peace of mind by helping her with advance planning documents as well as insurance and financial matters.

Free legal resources that help people like Maria exist nationwide. LegalHealth, a Division of the New York Legal Assistance Group, founded the NCLSN to promote their visibility and availability. Initial funding for the NCLSN came from the LiveSTRONG Foundation. The new NCLSN website features a detailed national directory of legal services organizations that serve individuals with cancer, searchable by service type, as well as location, through an interactive map. It also includes training materials and resources for those attempting to start new cancer legal advocacy programs.

“Patients, healthcare professionals, legal service programs, and the entire cancer community can utilize NCLSN.org to find help and resources,” said Randye Retkin, Director of LegalHealth.“ In spite of the devastating consequences of an overwhelmingly prevalent disease, there are not enough free legal programs to assist people with cancer. Through NCLSN.org, we not only hope to make it easier to locate those programs that exist, but also to encourage their increased availability nationwide.”

Barbara Hoffman, Founding Chair of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, thinks the new site will become a major resource. “More than 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year,” she said. “For the first time, they will have access to a national database of legal services to help address the insurance, employment, financial, and other non-medical issues common to most survivors and their families.”

LegalHealth, the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, and Atlanta Legal Aid created the directory through a national survey of private law firms, non-profit legal aid organizations, medical-legal partnerships, bar associations, cancer support organizations, individual attorneys, social workers, and patient navigator programs.

Organizations with questions about directory listings or participation in NCLSN, should contact tthomson@nylag.org or (212) 613-5000 Ext. 5278.

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