More New Yorkers are benefiting from the services of NYLAG’s LegalHealth division, thanks to recent expansions. Over the last 10 months, LegalHealth opened new clinics at Manhattan’s Harlem Hospital Center and Brooklyn’s Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, bringing the total number of LegalHealth clinics to 16 across the five boroughs. Funding for these expansions was provided in part by the Robin Hood Foundation, which has long supported LegalHealth’s legal clinics in New York City’s public hospitals.

LegalHealth partners with medical professionals to resolve the non-medical needs of low-income people with serious health problems. By providing free legal services within medical facilities and by training healthcare professionals to understand the legal issues their patients face, LegalHealth helps alleviate the nonmedical problems that affect patients’ health and well-being.

Mr. Toro, a client at Woodhull Hospital, was one such patient. Recently diagnosed with stage IV lymphoma, he was in need of a life-saving bone marrow transplant. His oncology team requested an exclusion from his Medicaid Managed Care plan to cover the cost of the transplant. When their request was denied, the team referred him to the new LegalHealth clinic. NYLAG attorneys researched Mr. Toro’s eligibility to switch to a Medicaid Managed Care plan that would be accepted at the hospital where the transplant was to take place. Thanks to these efforts, his insurance was successfully switched and he is now undergoing pre-bone marrow transplant treatment. Mr. Toro’s NYLAG attorney also advised him that he was eligible for an expedited review for Social Security Disability Income and helped file this application, which will help him meet basic expenses during his treatment and recovery.

The Harlem Hospital clinic, opened in October and run by staff attorney, Lia Capri Minkoff, has already handled 143 legal matters, with patients being referred from all of the ambulatory care clinics and the emergency room. The Woodhull clinic, led by staff attorney, Keiko CervantesOspina, has handled 74 cases since it opened in January, with referrals coming from the adult internal medicine clinic, pediatrics, oncology, psychiatry and in-patient floors. “Both the clinics at Harlem and Woodhull Hospitals have been welcome additions to the hospitals’ range of services, and we continue to schedule trainings so that the health care professionals are well-versed in how we can help their patients,” said Julie Brandfield, Associate Director of LegalHealth.

LegalHealth provided free legal services to over 4,500 New Yorkers in 2010. Most patients need help with multiple legal issues that impact their wellbeing. The goal is to stabilize the nonmedical situation for these individuals and their families so that they are better able to focus on their health.

Longtime Volunteer Honored for Helping Expand LGBT Law Project
Clara Ricciardi, a volunteer attorney at NYLAG since 2009, was honored at the UJA-Federation of New York’s recent Volunteer Recognition Ceremony for her hard work and dedication to NYLAG’s LGBT Law Project. On a daily basis, Ricciardi responds to telephone intake calls, advocates on behalf of clients, conducts legal research, and drafts motions and other court documents. Thanks to her involvement over the last two years, the LGBT Law Project has significantly expanded the number of individuals it is able to help. Perhaps the most important of her contributions to the Project’s success has been to enhance its ability to draft wills and other life planning documents for clients. Ricciardi was instrumental in forming the LGBT Life Planning Legal Clinic, which handles these areas.

NYLAG’s LGBT Law Project partnered with the LGBT Law Association Foundation of Greater New York to create and operate the new clinic, held at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan. The clinic was formed in response to the increasing need for life planning documents that provide legal protection and address the unique needs of the LGBT community. At the clinic, volunteer attorneys assist low-income LGBT individuals with the preparation and completion of essential documents such as health care proxies, living wills, powers of attorney and wills, helping to ensure the fulfillment of their wishes.

“Every day we learn about members of our community who are in crisis as a result of not having basic planning documents in place,” said Virginia Goggin, Project Coordinator of NYLAG’s LGBT Law Project. “Through this clinic, we are successfully preventing these problems before they start.”

The UJA-Federation of New York’s annual Volunteer Recognition Ceremony celebrates the accomplishments of outstanding volunteers across its vast network. Ricciardi was recognized for her fierce advocacy and extraordinary commitment to advancing the rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with Virginia Goggin and the other talented and dedicated people at NYLAG to provide legal assistance to the LGBT community,” Ricciardi said. For more information on the Project, please visit its web site at www.nylag.org/lgbt.