Justina Pelletier Closer to Her Family After a Year in Psych Hospital

Parents continue to wage angry battle to regain custody.

May 5, 2014, 2:25 PM

May 5, 2014— -- Justina Pelletier, the sick teen who for the past year has been in state custody under psychiatric care at Boston Children's Hospital, will be moved to a therapeutic facility in Connecticut under a plan to reunite her with her family, according to the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services.

Her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier of West Hartford, Conn., have waged an angry and highly publicized custody battle for their 15-year-old and continue to fight the state.

Only allowed weekly supervised visits, they say their daughter was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease by a top doctor at Tufts Medical Center and her condition has deteriorated for lack of proper medical treatment. They also allege Justina has been “abused and sexually harassed” at the DCF facility where she is being treated.

Parents of Justina Pelletier accused of verbally abusing hospital staff.

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“We are very disappointed,” Lou Pelletier told ABCNews.com. “There is no end game here and this could drag on with the Massachusetts DCF for months. They are still in charge and controlling this. This is unacceptable.”

“She is our daughter – this is enough,” he said. “Stop the torture and inhumane treatment of her – and never mind what this has done to our family.”

Pelletier has also pledged to continue a civil rights lawsuit and an emergency appeal in the juvenile appellate court, both underway.

For more than a year, a Boston judge sided with Boston Children's, which was treating the teen for somataform disorder, a psychiatric condition that causes a person to experience physical pain for which no known medical explanation can be found.

But in March, the court ordered a new treatment plan that includes Justina's former doctor, Mark Korson of Tufts Medical Center, to create a new treatment plan for "persistent and severe somatic symptom disorder," a condition that acknowledges physical as well as psychiatric illness.

Starting next week, the teen will be moved to the JRI Susan Wayne Center for Excellence, a therapeutic education provider in Thompson, Conn., HHS secretary John Polanowicz wrote in a May 5 letter to the Massachusetts House of Representatives obtained by ABCNews.com.

"We are confident that we have found the right pathway for Justina to return home as soon as possible so she can continue her strong recovery in Connecticut," Polanowicz wrote. "This is an important step forward in an extremely complex situation. We all want Justina to return soon, and this plan provides a road map to make this happen."

Pelletier may return home once her family meets these conditions: They must attend weekly visits at the Susan Wayne Center, follow the treatment plan outlined by Tufts Medical Center, participate in family therapy and continue to review her progress with DCF.

PHOTO: Justina Pelletier with her mother, Linda Pelletier, who said her daughter is losing hair because of lack of medical care.
Justina Pelletier with her mother, Linda Pelletier, who said her daughter is losing hair because of lack of medical care.
Courtesy of Pelletier Family

For the last several months, Justina has been living at Wayside Youth and Family Support Network, a DCF-run residential program in Framingham, Mass.

In March, a juvenile court judge gave the state of Massachusetts permanent custody of Justina Pelletier until the age of 18 -- issuing a ruling that chastised her parents and accused them of mismanaging the treatment of their sick 15-year-old. Suffolk County Court Judge Joseph Johnston ruled that the girl would remain in state custody until the age of 18 unless her parents could prove they were capable of taking care of their daughter.

The four-page ruling slammed the family for verbally abusing hospital caregivers by calling them "Nazis" and accusing them of "kidnapping" and "killing" their daughter, according to a copy obtained by ABCNews.com.

The judge also alleged that the social worker assigned to Justina's case had to be reassigned because Lou Pelletier threatened her. He said the family has stood in the way of every attempt to get Justina treatment.

Lou Pelletier, who filed an appeal in the custody case last December, had threatened federal lawsuits for "wrongful imprisonment" of his daughter.

At the time, the judge ruled that the Pelletiers had stood in the way of Connecticut child protective services placing Justina close to home because they "threatened to sue." Other suitable programs denied placement because of "concerns of litigation," according to the ruling.

According to the family, Justina was taken to Boston Children's Hospital's emergency room in February 2013. At the time she was being treated by Korson at Tufts for mitochondrial disease, a rare genetic disorder with physical symptoms that can affect every part of the body.

Since then, Justina has been confined to a wheelchair, and Pelletier has alleged her medical symptoms are not being treated and her condition has deteriorated.

Justina's older sister, Jennifer Pelletier, 22, told ABCNews.com in March that she was concerned about swelling in Justina's legs, which "could be a heart or kidney condition."

"Every time I see her she is worse," Jennifer Pelletier said.

Boston Children's Hospital has argued that Justina's symptoms are psychosomatic and laid out a treatment plan that the parents rejected. The hospital then filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, as required by law, because it suspected the parents of child abuse for subjecting their daughter to invasive medical treatments and denying her mental health therapy, according to numerous reports in the Boston Globe.

Boston Children's Hospital released this statement following the March court ruling: "We understand that the nature of this case has prompted questions and sparked strong reactions. But our clinical team has always acted in the best interest of the patient's health and well-being, according to the high standards we follow for every patient placed in our care.

"This case was a complex matter, presenting an array of challenges and obstacles that we cannot discuss out of respect for our patient's privacy and legal confidentiality requirements. We have been unable to provide a full and accurate picture of the case. But we are confident the treatment plan developed for our patient was the best course given the issues surrounding her medical history, the evaluations and observations of her care teams prior to arriving at Boston Children's and after she was admitted here."

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