West Hartford teenager Justina Pelletier will be moved to a Thompson, Conn., facility next week, according to a letter written Monday by Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz.
Polanowicz issued the letter after a 90 minute meeting with the Pelletier family.
The letter lays out a reunification plan that would move Pelletier to the JRI Susan Wayne Center for Excellence.
According to Polanwicz’s letter, it is a “therapeutic education provider in Thompson, Connecticut” where “she will receive comprehensive services and supports closer to her family, friends, school and community.”
The facility is in the northeast corner of the Connecticut, close to the Rhode Island and Massachusetts borders.
It is approximately a 1 hour, 15 minute drive from the Pelletiers’ home in West Hartford.
“It was an emotional meeting. There were tears shed. There was the expectation that Justina, with conditions, would be returned home as quickly as possible,” said Pelletier family spokesman Rev. Patrick Mahoney during a press conference on the Statehouse steps after the meeting Monday.
But the expectation of her immediate return was flipped upside down when the Pelletiers received Polanowicz’s letter.
The letter says the Massachusetts DCF would support Justina’s return home if four conditions are met by her parents:
- Attend visits with Justina at the Susan Wayne Center for Excellence
- Follow through with the Tufts Medical Center care plan
- Participate in family therapy
- Meet with DCF to review progress
“So they come to the Pelletiers and they say, ‘Accept this plan. It will be so good. We want Justina home immediately.’ There’s no date on here. How do we know? The broken promises of 15 months?” said Mahoney.
Rev. Mahoney says he met with Polanowicz twice last month and that both HHS and Justina’s state-appointed attorney agreed to a plan that would send her home to West Hartford right away.
But Mahoney says that at Monday’s meeting, the alternate plan was suddenly put forward.
Some ask why the Pelletiers are not at least grateful for Justina’s proposed return to Connecticut and why they don’t just chalk it up to “baby steps” toward getting her back.
They say their “baby” turns 16 years old this month, and after 15 months without her, their only victory would be having her back at home.
“Justina needs to be home by her birthday, May 24, and that is the ultimatum we have given the secretary and the DCF commissioner,” said her father, Lou Pelletier.
Justina has been in Massachusetts state custody since February of 2013, after a complicated series of events at Boston Children’s Hospital.
While she had been previously diagnosed with mitochondrial disease at Tufts Medical Center, different doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital diagnosed her with somatoform disorder, a mental condition.
When her parents moved to discharge Justina, they were eventually escorted out of the hospital by security, and the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families was called in.
Within four days, the Pelletiers lost custody of their daughter.
The family has been fighting to regain custody ever since.
View the Massachusetts Reunification plan letter here: Reunification-plan-letter