Family Drives Cross-Country with Twin Daughters for OCD Treatment at Bradley
Obsessive compulsive disorder programming one of several destination programs drawing families internationally to Rhode Island for mental and and behavioral health treatment
In the fall of 2014, Jenny Wenzel knew her family was in trouble. Her 11-year-old identical twins, Jane and Kate, had started to show signs of worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The hand washing, suicidal thoughts, severe anxiety and constant reassurance-seeking had reached an all-time high and “by the holidays it was pretty much unbearable,” said Wenzel.
This is a scenario that takes place in the homes of countless families every day. Nationwide, millions of families struggle with untreated mental health issues, with up to one in every five children experiencing a mental health disorder in a given year. Sadly, less than half of children with mental and behavioral illness are appropriately identified and receive treatment. Bradley Hospital has long been entrenched in this issue, as the nation’s first psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents since opening its doors 84 years ago in 1931.
Wenzel is well-equipped to recognize the signs of OCD spiraling out of control because she herself has OCD, struggling undiagnosed with the disorder her whole life, finding help only when her girls were toddlers. “When I saw the girls getting that bad, I immediately took action. We are from Kansas, and there aren’t any good programs close to us,” said Wenzel. “When the 5th or 6th therapist over three or four years says, ‘she’s so severe, I can’t treat her,’ that’s when you know you have to find help.”
After the Christmas holiday, Wenzel’s father knew the family was in crisis, and wanted to help. Wenzel’s parents own a recreational vehicle and offered it up to the family to travel anywhere they needed to seek treatment.
“I started calling all around the country to OCD programs, and when I searched for family-centered therapy, Bradley Hospital just kept popping up over and over,” said Wenzel. “Bradley seemed way too far away, but when I called and spoke with Amy Cousineau, the social worker for Bradley’s OCD program, immediately, I could tell this was different. She knew exactly what she was talking about, asked all the right questions, assured me there was help. It was the first time I didn’t get an answering machine or a receptionist.”
On March 28th, the entire Wenzel family - Jenny and her husband, daughters Jane and Kate, both Jenny’s parents and the family goldendoodle, Millie – packed up and drove nearly 1,600 miles to Bradley Hospital, where Jane and Kate both entered The Intensive Program for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
“The first day of treatment, we walked in and met Dr. Case, and Jane just immediately took to him and felt so at ease and comfortable,” said Wenzel. “It’s very humbling taking your kids to a psychiatric hospital. It’s not something that’s ever on your list to do as a parent, but the staff here just immediately made everything ok. It has been unbelievable,”
The Wenzel’s story rings familiar at Bradley Hospital, where countless families travel for destination programs that are unique and hard to come by elsewhere. “Our OCD programming, along with our Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities and our Inpatient Medical/Psychiatric Program, continue to draw families from as near as right here in Rhode Island to as far away as the West Coast, Canada and even the Philippines,” said Henry Sachs, MD, chief medical officer of Bradley Hospital. “Through our partnership with Hasbro Children’s Hospital, we are the only freestanding children’s psychiatric hospital affiliated with an academic medical center for pediatrics, allowing us the unique position of providing high-level care for the whole health of any child, both mind and body. This is what draws families to us and has made us a destination for any and every child that needs complex mental health care.”
As for the Wenzel family, Jenny reports that Jane and Kate have made steady progress and are discussing their discharge home to Kansas. “As twins, the girls have the benefit of being able to help each other and remind each other of their therapies and coping mechanisms once we’re home,” said Wenzel. “They can support one another and keep themselves in check. Although, I still do wish I could clone this program and bring it back home to Kansas with me.”