In 2007, Lindy Yokanovich began Cancer Legal Line (“CALL”) — a nonprofit that provides pro bono legal care to Minnesotans with cancer. Yokanovich started the organization out of her home, taking calls from cancer patients in the evenings (while simultaneously caring for her four children and working a day job). Today, her 8-year-old organization is staffed by two full-time attorneys as well as an administrative assistant. CALL has helped over 2000 clients address the legal questions and problems that can arise from a cancer diagnosis.
Yokanovich speaks passionately about the need for better legal support for those with cancer. “Unless you’ve been divorced or had a probate experience, most people have never dealt with lawyers. But all of a sudden, someone with a diagnosis may have questions about FMLA leave, how to talk to human resources, ADA protection, or even creating a guardianship plan for children.” The breadth of these issues means that Lindy and the CALL staff need to be jacks-of-all-trades. But Yokanovich says she founded CALL committed that she would never tell someone she couldn’t help because “they had the wrong type of cancer.” Indeed, Lindy emphasizes that legal assistance is part and parcel of the health care that all cancer patients need. “And lawyers are uniquely poised to help where the medical community isn’t.”
To this end, CALL has partnered with the University of Minnesota Blood and Marrow Transplant Program to provide a Medical Legal Partnership Clinic in which patients receive legal care, onsite, as an integrated part of the overall health care they receive pre-transplant. Yokanovich is witnessing a growing understanding that Medical Legal Partnership is a powerful way to address the social and economic factors that influence people’s health.
Yokanovich’s colleagues praise her dedication to the hilt: “All of this innovative legal care has happened because Lindy believed the need was there, gave countless unpaid hours of time and planning, met with hundreds of potential funders, hospital and clinic administrators, attorneys and volunteers to bring this service to cancer patients in Minnesota.” Lucky for us, Yokanovich finds this hard work invigorating. In fact, she says, “I don’t feel unsung, I feel very sung.”