Helping a father prepare for his daughter’s future care

PEACE OF MIND: Melody, left, and her father, James, are among the hundreds of families in WNC who are helped through the HEALS program every year. The medical-legal partnership of Mission Health and Pisgah Legal Services addresses critical legal issues that impact the health of low-income patients. Photo courtesy of Pisgah Legal Services

Editor’s note: As part of Xpress’ Nonprofit Issue, we asked local nonprofits to share a bright moment of 2017.

When James suffered a stroke, he was rushed to Mission Hospital, where he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given only weeks to live. As his daughter’s only surviving parent, what could James do?

For more than a decade, Mission Health and Pisgah Legal Services have worked together through the HEALS Project, a special medical-legal partnership that addresses critical legal issues that impact the health of low-income patients.

Carey Baumgarten and Kim Battle at Mission Cancer Center contacted PLS attorney Tom Gallagher about James and his daughter, Melody. Tom and volunteer attorney Ray Reiser moved quickly to obtain Social Security benefits for James and to ensure Melody will receive maximum benefits later. They also created a will, a health care power of attorney, and a standby guardianship for James’ best friend to someday care for Melody.

“Our goal was to work together and do everything we possibly could for James and his daughter, Melody,” says Gallagher.

Tears fill James’ eyes when he looks at Melody, but he takes comfort knowing that his wishes for her future care are in place. “Thank you for all that you’ve done for us,” he says.

Each year, hundreds of families in WNC are helped through the HEALS program, and more than 15,000 people are served by Pisgah Legal Services. This program is a 2017 recipient of Community Investment funds from Mission Health.

To learn more, visit

— Evie White, communications manager, Pisgah Legal Services


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