AUGUSTA – Veterans who have psychiatric illnesses will now be treated in a modern facility that staff members say is safer and more comfortable than ever before.

The Togus Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Friday unveiled its new 18,000-square-foot ward, renovated to provide short-term care and assessments for veterans who suffer acute psychiatric episodes.

“We have great staff and veterans committed to helping themselves. Now we have the environment to pull it all together,” said the medical center’s director, Brian Stiller.

The acute psychiatric ward, triple the size of the current location, will allow Togus to increase the number of people it treats, from 16 to 24 beds, said Ryan Lilly, associate director.

The current facility has three to four beds per room. Most of the rooms in the new ward have a single bed, and none of the rooms has more than two beds. Unlike in the current ward, each room has its own bathroom.

The new ward also has larger and more group rooms than the current facility, which has just one day room.

The pastel colors and numerous windows allow lots of light and give the entire floor a comfortable, home-like feeling.

While comfort was a big concern, safety dominated every facet of the design, Lilly said, from the furniture to the door hinges.

Bathroom doors, for example, are slanted, shower sinks are controlled by buttons and lights are fixed with tamper-resistant screws, all in an effort to prevent patients from injuring themselves.

Suicide rates among veterans exceed those of the population at large, Lilly said.

“We’ve tried to create a room that doesn’t have any anchor points,” he said.

The renovations, which cost $5.5 million, began in March 2009. Patients are expected to begin moving into the facility Monday.

“It’s a huge improvement,” Stiller said. “It’s patient-centered. It’s a clean, clear atmosphere to heal in.”