Mendota Mental Health Institute

From Asylum Projects
Jump to: navigation, search
Mendota Mental Health Institute
Opened 1860
Current Status Active
Building Style Kirkbride Plan (Demolished)
Location Madison, WI
Peak Patient Population 2,528 in 1950
Alternate Names
  • Wisconsin State Hospital for the Insane
  • Mendota Asylum for the Insane
  • Mendota State Hospital


Mendota opened on July 14, 1860 when it admitted a patient who had been brought all the way from Oconto County...a long trip by horse and wagon. Even though the hospital was not yet ready to open, that Saturday it was decided that, because of the distance the patient had been brought, he should be received. Thus began Mendota's ready response to the needs of patients and communities, which has been its tradition.

Mendota has gone through many changes since then, some of them dramatized in the changes in its name. It opened as an "Asylum", appropriate in an era when little could be done for the mentally ill except to house and care for them...i.e. to give them asylum...when their families and communities could no longer cope with their needs.

In a later era, when patients were recognized as having an illness...mental illness...the name was changed to Mendota State Hospital, reflecting its responsibility for providing treatment.

In more recent times, with the discovery of psychiatric medications and with new approaches (some of which resulted from research at Mendota itself) it became possible for the mentally ill to be treated in community hospitals and clinics. But there remained a need for a place for those who required more specialized treatment than most community hospitals and clinics could provide, and where the tradition of research, education, and consultation that Mendota had already established could continue. Mendota was then changed to its present name of Mendota Mental Health Institute.

Mendota has a distinguished history as one of the most progressive psychiatric facilities in the country. It is well-known for its advanced programs. The methods for community treatment developed in Mendota's PACT program have been adopted throughout Wisconsin and many other states, as well as abroad. Agencies throughout the country contact Mendota's Home and Community Treatment program to learn its methods for helping families with disturbed children, without hospitalization.

Mendota's program in forensic psychiatry has been recognized by the National Institute of Mental Health as one of the top ten such programs in the United States. Mendota's Geropsychiatric Treatment Unit is noted for its assessment and treatment of the elderly who suffer from emotional and neurological conditions which affect behavior, including Alzheimer's Disease. But those are only a few of Mendota's programs; in all, there are 17 treatment units serving the needs of children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly as well as special forensic populations. Each has a distinguished record of achievement.

Mendota is the only facility in Wisconsin, public or private, which ever received the Gold Achievement Award of the American Psychiatric Association, the highest award possible for mental health programs in America.

Mendota was one of the first mental hospitals in the country to receive accreditation by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Hospitals, which continues to accredit Mendota today. Mendota has been the "cradle" for the clinical education of hundreds of mental health professionals in Wisconsin and beyond. And Mendota provides for their continued education by offering regular seminars and workshops attended by about 7000 people each year.

When Mendota opened in 1860 it was the first mental hospital in Wisconsin. It held a promise of something better than this state had ever had before. It has not failed to keep that promise.

Images of Mendota Mental Health Institute[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Mendota Mental Health Institute