Appendix C
N-SSATS Background


Survey History

N-SSATS in the Context of the Drug and Alcohol Services Information System (DASIS)

Survey Coverage

Changes in Survey Content

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Survey History

N-SSATS has evolved from national survey efforts begun in the 1970s by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to measure the scope and use of drug abuse treatment services in the United States. The sixth of these surveys, conducted in 1976, introduced the data elements and format that have formed the core of subsequent surveys. These include organizational focus, service orientation, services available, clients in treatment by type of care, and inpatient/residential capacity. The 1976 survey, called the National Drug Abuse Treatment Utilization Survey, was repeated in 1977 and 1978. In 1979, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) became a cosponsor of the survey, alcoholism treatment facilities were added, and the study was renamed the National Drug and Alcoholism Treatment Utilization Survey. This survey was repeated in 1980 and 1982. In 1984, a one-page version was used (the National Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Program Inventory). In 1987, the full version of the survey was reinstated and renamed the National Drug and Alcoholism Treatment Unit Survey (NDATUS). NDATUS was conducted annually from 1989 to 1993. In 1992, with the creation of SAMHSA, responsibility for conducting the survey shifted to SAMHSA's Office of Applied Studies. The survey was redesigned, and conducted annually as the Uniform Facility Data Set survey from 1995 to 1998. During these years, the survey was conducted by mail with telephone follow-up of non-respondents. The 1999 survey year was a transition year during which the survey was redesigned, and an abbreviated telephone survey of treatment facilities was conducted. In 2000, a redesigned full mail survey was reinstated with telephone follow-up; it was renamed the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (NSSATS). In 2002, facilities were given the option of responding to the survey on the Internet.

N-SSATS in the Context of the Drug and Alcohol Services Information System (DASIS)

N-SSATS is one of the three components of SAMHSA's Drug and Alcohol Services Information System (DASIS). The core of DASIS is the Inventory of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (I-SATS), a continuously-updated, comprehensive listing of all known substance abuse treatment facilities. The other components of DASIS are NSSATS and the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), a client-level database of persons admitted to substance abuse treatment. A unique ID number assigned to each facility by I-SATS is used in the collection of facility-level data (N-SSATS) and client-level data (TEDS) so that the three data sets can be linked. Together, they provide national- and State-level information on the numbers and characteristics of individuals admitted to alcohol and drug treatment programs and describe the facilities that deliver care to those individuals.

I-SATS is the list frame for N-SSATS. Facilities in I-SATS fall into two general categories and are distinguished by the relationship of the facility to its State substance abuse agency. These categories are described below.

Treatment facilities approved by State substance abuse agencies

The largest group of facilities (about 12,000 in 2002) includes facilities that are licensed, certified, or otherwise approved by the State substance abuse agency to provide substance abuse treatment. The majority of these facilities are required by the State agency to provide TEDS client-level data. State DASIS representatives maintain this segment of ISATS by reporting new facilities, closures, and address changes to SAMHSA. Some facilities are not required by the State agency to provide TEDS client-level data. Some private for-profit facilities fall into this category. This group also includes programs operated by Federal agencies, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Defense, and the Indian Health Service. I-SATS records for Federally-operated facilities are updated annually through lists provided by these agencies.

Treatment facilities not approved by State substance abuse agencies

This group of facilities (about 2,000 in 2002) represents the SAMHSA effort in recent years to make I-SATS as comprehensive as possible by including treatment facilities that State substance abuse agencies, for a variety of reasons, do not fund, license, or certify. Many of these facilities are private for-profit, small group practices, or hospital-based programs. Most of them are identified through periodic screening of alternative source databases. (See Expansion of survey coverage.) State substance abuse agencies are given the opportunity to review these facilities and to add them to the State agency-approved list, if appropriate.

Survey Coverage

The use of I-SATS as the list frame for N-SSATS imposes certain constraints related to the unit of response and the scope of facilities included. In addition, the expansion of I-SATS in recent years to provide a more complete enumeration of substance abuse treatment facilities means that year-to-year comparisons of the numbers of facilities reporting to N-SSATS must be interpreted with caution.

Figure 7 is a time line detailing the major changes in survey scope and administration that may have affected the numbers of reporting facilities and clients. Beginning in 1995, changes in data collection methods enabled more complete identification of duplicate reporting by networks of facilities, causing a slight reduction in the total number of facilities.


Expansion of survey coverage to include all sites within networks at which treatment was provided (detailed below) yielded a net of increase of about 2,600 facilities between 1997 and 1998. These additions were not necessarily new facilities, but were facilities not previously included in the survey as separate sites. The number of facilities reporting continued to increase in 1999, but at a slower pace, a net increase of 1,800 facilities. The increase between 1998 and 1999 was in large part because of the improved survey response rate (95 percent in 1999 vs. 90 percent in 1998).

In 2002, the number of facilities reporting increased slightly. The survey response rate increased by 1 percent over the 2000 response rate, to 96 percent.

Unit of response

N-SSATS is designed to collect data from each physical location where treatment services are provided. Accordingly, SAMHSA requests that State substance abuse agencies use the point of delivery of service (i.e., physical location) as the defining factor for a facility. It also requests that facilities be included in I-SATS, N-SSATS, and TEDS at the same administrative level so that record linkage among the three data sets is valid. Because of the different State administrative systems, however, there are some inconsistencies in implementation. For example, in some States, multiple treatment programs (e.g., detoxification, residential, and outpatient) at the same address and under the same management have separate State licenses. These are treated as separate by the State substance abuse agency, and are given separate I-SATS ID numbers. In other States, multiple sites are included as a single entity under a parent or administrative unit. In many of these cases, individual sites can report services data in N-SSATS, but client data are available only at a higher administrative level. Beginning in 1995, efforts have been made to identify facility networks and to eliminate duplicate reporting by networks. For most facilities, reporting level remains consistent from year to year. However, beginning in 1998, an emphasis was placed on collecting minimum information from all physical locations, and this has resulted in an increase in the number of facilities.

Special efforts to improve survey coverage

The great majority of treatment facilities in I-SATS are administratively monitored by State substance abuse agencies. Therefore, the scope of facilities included in I-SATS is affected by differences in State systems of licensure, certification, accreditation, and the disbursement of public funds. For example, some State substance abuse agencies regulate private facilities and individual practitioners while others do not. In some States, hospital-based substance abuse treatment facilities are not licensed through the State substance abuse agency.

To address these differences, SAMHSA conducted a large-scale effort during 1995 and 1996 to identify substance abuse treatment facilities that, for a variety of reasons, were not on I-SATS. Some 15 source lists were considered, and facilities not on ISATS were contacted to ascertain whether they provided substance abuse treatment. As expected, this yielded a number of hospital-based and small private facilities that were not on I-SATS. (These facilities were surveyed in 1995 and 1996, but they were not included in the published results of the survey until 1997.) Analysis of the results of this effort led to similar but more targeted updates before subsequent surveys. Potential new facilities are identified using data from the American Business Index, the annual American Hospital Association survey, and SAMHSA's biannual Inventory of Mental Health Organizations, the source lists that had yielded the most new facilities in 1995 and 1996. Additional facilities are also identified during the survey itself by survey participants, who are asked to report all of the treatment facilities in their administrative networks. All newly identified facilities are initially included as not approved by the State substance abuse agency. State substance abuse agencies are given the opportunity to review these facilities and to add them to the State agency-approved list, if appropriate.

Data collection

Until 1996, State substance abuse agencies distributed and collected the UFDS survey forms. Beginning in 1996, data collection was centralized; since that time, SAMHSA has mailed facility survey forms directly to and collected forms directly from the facilities, and has conducted follow-up telephone interviews with the facility director or his/her designee.


Beginning in 1992, SAMHSA expanded efforts to obtain information from non-responding facilities. A representative sample of non-respondents was contacted and administered an abbreviated version of the survey instrument via telephone. In 1993 and later years, this effort was extended to all non-responding facilities. In 1997, a series of measures was introduced to enhance the survey response rate. These included advance notification and improved methods for updating address and contact information. In 2002, use of these methods and intensive telephone follow-up resulted in a non-response rate of only 4 percent. For 96 percent of facilities in the sample, it was possible either to complete the survey or to determine that the facility had closed or was otherwise ineligible.


In 1997, facilities offering only DUI/DWI programs were excluded; these facilities were reinstated in 1998.

Facilities operated by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) were excluded from the 1997 UFDS survey and subsequent surveys because SAMHSA conducted a separate survey of correctional facilities.1 During that survey, it was discovered that jails, prisons, and other organizations treating incarcerated persons only were poorly enumerated on the I-SATS. Beginning in 1999, these facilities were identified during the survey and excluded from analyses and public use data files.

I-SATS and N-SSATS are designed to include specialty substance abuse treatment facilities rather than individuals. Solo practitioners are listed on I-SATS and surveyed in N-SSATS only if the State substance abuse agency explicitly requests that they be included.

Beginning in 2000, halfway houses that did not provide substance abuse treatment were included on the I-SATS and in N-SSATS so that they could be listed in the Directory and on the Treatment Facility Locator. These facilities were excluded from analyses and public use data files.

Changes in Survey Content

Since 1992, SAMHSA has made adjustments each year to the survey design, both to minimize non-response and to include areas of emerging interest such as the role of managed care.

Table C.1 shows the major content areas for the UFDS survey and N-SSATS from 1995 to 2002.

Table C.1
Survey contents: UFDS - N-SSATS 1995-2002


UFDS - N-SSATS survey year

Survey contents 1995 1996 1997-1998 1999 2000  2002
Ownership/operation X X X X X X
Services offered X X X X X X
Organizational setting X X X X X X
Primary focus       X X X
Type of treatment provided X X X X X X
No. of clients by age, sex, and race/ethnicity X X X      
No. of clients (total and under age 18) X X X   X X
No. of beds X X X   X X
Types of payment accepted X     X X X
Programs or groups for special populations X     X X X
Licensure/certification of staff X          
Licensure/certification of facility X     X X X
Sources and amounts of revenue X X X      
Managed care agreements X X X X X X
Languages other than English         X X
1 SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies. Substance Abuse Treatment in Adult and Juvenile Correctional Facilities: Findings from the Uniform Facility Data Set 1997 Survey of Correctional Facilities. Drug and Alcohol Services Information System Series: S-9. DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 00-3380. Rockville MD, 2000.