National Data Inform Substance Abuse and Mental Health Policy

2016-2021
Prepared for
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
behavioral health systems data collection

 

When policymakers at the federal, state, and local level seek national data to inform decisions about mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, they often turn to data Mathematica has collected. We use best practices in survey design and data collection to provide high quality, valid, and reliable data. In our longstanding and successful history managing the Behavioral Health Services Information System , we direct essential data collection projects in the field of mental health and substance abuse, including: 

  • National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS). This study is collects data from all facilities in the United States and its territories that provide substance abuse treatment. The goal is to understand how treatment for substance abuse is delivered. We have conducted this survey of over 17,000 facilities annually since 1997, obtaining response rates above 90 percent in each round. We use multi-mode data collection methods—web, telephone, and paper—to collect information on the characteristics, types of services offered, and number of clients of treatment facilities. We also collect contact information for the facilities, which is used to update SAMHSA’s online Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator, a service that allows members of the public to search for certified treatment facilities in their area. In response to requests from SAMHSA, we have also conducted ad hoc data analyses and generated reports and publications using N-SSATS these data.
  • National Mental Health Services Survey (N-MHSS). Mathematica has successfully conducted this survey of approximately 16,000 facilities since 2010. Its goal is to obtain data from all specialty mental health treatment facilities in the United States and its territories. The data collected include information about facility characteristics, the types of services offered, and the number and characteristics of clients receiving services. Mathematica collects data using web, telephone, and paper modes, achieving response rates above 90 percent. As with the N-SSATS, this survey is also a mechanism for providing updated facility-level information for the online Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.
  • Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) Survey. In 2011, we surveyed all 1,371 public and private, SAMHSA-certified, opioid treatment programs in the United States. Fielded in conjunction with the N-SSATS, the survey collected data on the location and characteristics of all of these programs in the nation, as well as information on the services facilities provided, number of clients served, client demographic information, medication-assisted treatment, and dosage data. Using three data collection modes—web, paper, and telephone—we obtained a 95 percent response rate.

Our expertise has enabled us to develop and conduct this combined data collection effort to ensure high quality data and minimal burden on respondents. Each project involves survey instrument design, sample frame enhancements, development of OMB packages, and close monitoring and adaptability during data collection to minimize nonresponse and achieve a high response rate.

In the post-collection phase, our staff verifies and cleans data using well established systems, including complex data verification checks, programmed skip functions, prefills of data from the prior year’s survey, and verifications of various facility names and addresses. We also developed a customized database that makes historical facility information readily available to ensure rapid responses to requests. Quality assurance includes rigorous testing of each data collection instrument and machine-cleaning.We also document the methodology for each survey and ready the data and documentation needed for restricted and public use files. In response to requests from SAMHSA, we have conducted ad hoc data analyses and generated reports and publications using N-SSATS data.