The National Cancer Legal Services Network (NCLSN) launched a new website, www.nclsn.org, to increase the accessibility of free legal resources for cancer patients and their families.  Founded earlier this year by Randye Retkin, Director of LegalHealth, the NCLSN’s goal is to address the nonmedical legal issues faced by cancer patients, their families, and healthcare providers.

LegalHealth managed the creation of the website with initial funding from the LiveSTRONG Foundation. The new site features a national directory of legal services organizations that serve individuals with cancer, searchable by service type and location through an interactive map. It also includes training and resources for those attempting to start new cancer legal advocacy programs.

“NCLSN.org is a new resource for people from many different perspectives – patients, healthcare professionals, legal aid programs, and the entire cancer community – from which they can learn more about these services,” said Ms. Retkin. “In spite of the devastating nonmedical consequences of an overwhelmingly prevalent disease, cancer legal services programs are far too few. 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.”

In just one example, Maria, a 45-year-old single mother with terminal cancer had no will, healthcare 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.

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.