'Only option': Montana family plans 1,000+ mile travel for OCD treatment

'Only option': Billings family plans 1,000+ mile travel for OCD treatment
Posted at 9:26 AM, Dec 04, 2023

BILLINGS — Eight-year-old Claire Hamnes loves sports, Pokémon, painting and her family. She is outgoing, funny and just recently learned how to play "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" on the electric keyboard her grandma got her.

'Only option': Billings family plans 1,000+ mile travel for OCD treatment

She also often struggles to get dressed in the mornings because of how her clothes feel to her. Nichole Hamnes, Claire's mom, said it can take 45 minutes to get Claire dressed some mornings before school. Claire's father, Erik, said Claire describes the clothing as having too much static.

“At her worst, she couldn’t look at her clothes and how they were arranged,” Nichole said on Sunday.

Claire has severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), oppositional defiance disorder, anxiety and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). She started showing signs of OCD at a very young age, and Nichole said her daughter's obsessions and anxiety have only escalated.

"She started voicing a lot of concerns with sensory issues at about 2.5 years old,” she said. “It’s really hard to follow her rules because hers is 'just right OCD' and so, whatever her brain is telling her is just right is the rule we have to follow.”

'Only option': Billings family plans 1,000+ mile travel for OCD treatment

Claire is on medication and attends telehealth therapy sessions, which her parents said has helped, but this summer her mental health continued to decline. So, her parents started searching for treatment facilities to help their daughter. The closest they found is a residential treatment program called Rogers Behavioral Health in Wisconsin.

“Our state and even some of the surrounding states don’t have any real programs," Nichole said. "There are really no other programs in this country that take children as young as her. It’s kind of our only option.”

Rogers Behavioral Health accepts children as young as eight, but when the Hamnes family found the facility this summer, Claire was still only seven. Nichole said they were told to contact the behavioral health treatment facility as soon as Claire turned eight, which was just last month, and they would be bumped up to the top of the list to receive treatment. Nichole and Claire expected to be in Wisconsin by the end of December but were told in late November it would be another two to three months until a spot opened up.

'Only option': Billings family plans 1,000+ mile travel for OCD treatment

This waiting period is hard for the entire family. Nichole will be driving to Wisconsin with Claire and will stay for all of Claire's treatment. Claire said she was "sad and mad" when she found out she couldn't go to Rogers Behavioral Health as soon as she thought she could. She said she wants to go "to get help."

“It’s six to eight weeks, but from what I’ve heard online from other parents their child has been there upwards of three and a half months,” Nichole said.

Insurance will cover a majority of Claire's stay at Rogers, but Nichole will not be staying at the facility with her daughter. So, the family has to cover Nichole's cost of living for the duration of Claire's treatment. The family has a GoFundMe page to help offset the travel costs and loss of wages Nichole will experience during her daughter's treatment.

“The fact that we don’t have these resources within our state is just devastating,” Nichole said.