Transforming Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ Building 6 into a Geriatric Behavioral Health Therapy Facility

The Department of Health Services at the Central Wisconsin Center (CWC) is undergoing a major transformation of its Building 6 facility into a geriatric behavioral health therapy facility. This short-term therapy center will assist geriatric psychiatric patients and dementia patients currently cared for at Mendota Mental Health Institute (MMHI). This project renovates the 46,000 sq.ft. building ensuring a supportive, safe work environment for staff and a therapeutic space for patients.

The building will provide two (15) bed patient units — each with a nurse station, activity spaces, dining room, and support spaces. The first floor will be I-2 occupancy, while the lower level offers business occupancy, housing staff and building support spaces. The building layout is symmetrical so the number of patient rooms and wings in use at a time can flex up or down as volumes change. Patient rooms, common spaces and restrooms are designed to accommodate wheelchairs and different levels of mobility and ability.

The curved walls that will line the corridor are both practical for staff and experiential for patients. They put staff front and center, improving the visibility of patients in common spaces so that there are no blind corners. This design element can also be significant for patients with dementia. The curve and loop of the corridor gives off a softer feel and provides a therapeutic atmosphere during their daily walks by giving them a flowing path that feels less rigid and confined. 

Safety and dignity were top of mind when carefully considering the design of restrooms. Because restrooms are one of the most private spaces for patients in healthcare facilities, there is a higher risk factor of danger for patients with geriatric behavioral health and physical health issues. Restroom accessories, such as grab bars, are designed to be ligature resistant. Sliding doors prevent at-risk patients from being able to lock themselves in.

The MMHI campus encourages family and friends’ visitation. With that in mind, an addition to the south side of the building will offer comfortable spaces for visiting inside with access to the outdoors. An enclosed outdoor courtyard with a healing garden is being developed for outdoor visits. Similar to the interior walls, the garden features a curved, infinite looping path for patients to walk their laps around the garden. Wheelchair accessible, raised planter beds give patients the opportunity to experience gardening as a form of therapy.


Madison, WI


46,000 Sq. Ft.

Services Provided:

Architectural Space Planning, Architectural Planning and Design, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture

Scott Gosnell


Vice President | Director, Healthcare

As the Director of our Healthcare Studio, Scott leads a team of healthcare planning and design experts who are focused in evidence-based design, Lean healthcare design principles, and biophilic design. Before exclusively concentrating his professional efforts on healthcare facility projects, his main areas of focus were in the firm's healthcare and hospitality project categories. This unique combination of experience has resulted in projects that embody an environment of care that values patient experience in quality, brand, convenience, and amenities as well as staff efficiency and well-planned spaces. Scott has been with Zimmerman for nearly 20 years, having joined the firm shortly after earning his Master’s Degree in Architecture from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.