Chapter 1

Description of the National Survey of Substance Abuse
Treatment Services (N-SSATS)

This report presents tabular information and high-lights from the 2004 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS), conducted between March and October 2004, with a reference date of March 31, 2004. It is the 27th in a series of national surveys begun in the 1970s designed to collect data on the location, characteristics, and utilization of alcohol and drug treatment facilities and services throughout the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions.1 The Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, plans and directs N-SSATS.

N-SSATS is designed to collect information from all facilities2 in the United States, both public and private, that provide substance abuse treatment. (Additional information on N-SSATS, its history, and changes in the survey and survey universe over time is provided in Appendix C.)

N-SSATS provides the mechanism for quantifying the dynamic character and composition of the U.S. substance abuse treatment delivery system. The objectives of N-SSATS are to collect multipurpose data that can be used to—

Data Collection Procedures for the 2004 N-SSATS

Field period and reference date

The field period for the 2004 N-SSATS ran from March 31, 2004 through October 1, 2004, with a reference date of March 31, 2004.

Survey coverage

The 2004 N-SSATS facility universe included all 16,651 active treatment facilities on SAMHSA’s I-SATS at a point 6 weeks prior to the survey reference date. Facilities added by State substance abuse agencies or discovered during the first 3 weeks of the survey were also included in the survey universe.


The 2004 N-SSATS survey instrument was a 10-page document with 37 numbered questions. (See Appendix A.) Topics included:

Data collection

Six weeks before the survey, letters were mailed to all facilities to alert them to expect the survey. An additional benefit of the letters was to update records with new address information returned from the post office. On the survey reference date, data collection packets, including the questionnaire, SAMHSA cover letter, State-specific letter of endorsement, information on completing the survey on the Internet, and a sheet of Frequently Asked Questions, were mailed to each facility. During the data collection phase, contract personnel were available to answer facilities’ questions concerning the survey. Support in responding to questions for those facilities completing the questionnaire over the Internet was also available. Four to 5 weeks after the initial questionnaire mailing, thank you/reminder letters were sent to all facilities. Approximately 8 weeks after the initial questionnaire mailing, non-
responding facilities were sent a second questionnaire mailing. About 4 to 5 weeks after the second questionnaire mailing, non-respondents received a reminder telephone call. Those facilities that had not responded within 2 to 3 weeks of the reminder call were telephoned and asked to complete the survey by telephone. The overall response rate was 96 percent.

Forms accounting and response rate

Summary response rate information is presented in Table 1.1. Questionnaires were mailed to a total of 16,651 facilities believed to offer substance abuse treatment services. Of these facilities, 11 percent were found to be ineligible for the survey because they had closed or did not provide substance abuse treatment or detoxification on March 31, 2004. Of the remaining 14,779 facilities, 96 percent completed the survey.

Table 1.1
Survey forms accounting and response rates:
N-SSATS 2004
  Number Percent
Total facilities in survey 16,651 100.0
Closed/Ineligible  1,872  11.2
Eligible 14,779  88.8
Total eligible 14,779 100.0
Nonrespondents    612   4.1
Respondents 14,167  95.9
Excluded from Report    390   2.6
Roll-ups1    323   2.2
Included in Report 13,454  91.0
Mode of Response 13,454 100.0
Mail  6,446  47.9
Internet  4,047  30.1
Telephone  2,961  22.0
1 Facilities deemed out of the scope of this report. See text for details.
2 Facilities whose client counts were included in or "rolled into" other facilities’ counts and whose facility characteristics were not reported separately.

SOURCE: Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS), 2004.


Of the 14,167 survey respondents, 390 facilities provided information but were deemed out of the scope of this report and were excluded from the analyses presented here. The excluded facilities fell into three categories:

An additional 323 facilities whose client counts were included in or "rolled into" other facilities’ counts and whose facility characteristics were not reported separately were also excluded from facility counts in this report. However, their client counts are included.

After allowing for the exclusion of 390 out-of-scope facilities and 323 rolled-up facilities, 13,454 eligible respondent facilities were included in the 2004 N-SSATS report.

Number of respondents reporting facility and client data

Table 1.2. There were a total of 13,454 eligible respondents to the 2004 N-SSATS. The breakdown of these respondents with respect to their reporting of facility data and client counts is summarized below.

Table 1.2
Number of N-SSATS facilities reporting client and/or facility data: 2004
Type of data reported Number of facilities for which facility characteristics were reported1 Number of facilities for which client counts were reported
Total 13,454 13,684
Facility characteristics and client counts for responding facility only 11,666 11,666
Facility characteristics for responding facility only; client counts for responding facility and other facilities as well    661  2,018
Facility characteristics only (client counts reported by another facility)  1,127       - -

1 Excludes 147 non-treatment halfway houses, 95 facilities treating incarcerated clients only, and 148 non-State-approved solo practitioners.

SOURCE: Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS), 2004.

Quality assurance

All mail questionnaires were reviewed manually for consistency and for missing data. After data entry, automated quality assurance reviews were conducted. These incorporated the rules used in manual editing, plus consistency checks and checks for data outliers not readily implemented by manual review. Calls were made to facilities to clarify questionable responses and to obtain missing data.

If facilities could not be reached during the edit callbacks, responses that were clearly in error were replaced by imputation.

The Internet questionnaire was programmed to be self-editing; that is, respondents were prompted to complete missing responses and to confirm or correct inconsistent responses.

Item non-response

Careful editing and extensive follow-up have minimized item non-response. (See Appendix B.) Although there were instances of non-response in most data items, item non-response was generally low, between less than 1 percent and 2 percent for most items. An exception was the question on payment types accepted by the facility, where non-response rates ranged as high as 12 percent for the various response categories.

Missing data for client count variables (e.g., the number of clients in hospital inpatient, non-hospital residential, and outpatient treatment) were imputed. For the remaining unimputed variables, facilities with missing values for a given variable were excluded from the tabulations using that variable. As a result, the number of treatment facilities on which tables are based may vary somewhat from table to table. The number of facilities actually reporting data is generally included on each table.

Methodology of Imputation of Missing Client Counts

A total of 89 facilities were missing one-day census client count values for one or more types of service (i.e., hospital inpatient detoxification, hospital inpatient treatment, non-hospital residential detoxification, etc.). A facility was given imputed values for a type of service if it reported that it provided the service but had not provided client counts for that service type. For example, if a facility reported that it provided hospital inpatient services and outpatient services, but not non-hospital residential services, client values were imputed for the hospital inpatient and outpatient variables only. Missing values for the number of clients under age 18 and the number of hospital inpatient beds and/or non-hospital residential beds were not imputed.

When available, client values from the 2003 N-SSATS were used to impute the missing client counts on the 2004 N-SSATS. In all other cases, the average client value, stratified by State and facility operation, was used to impute the missing client counts. If a facility were unique in its State and facility operation category, values were imputed using average values for the State only. Client counts were imputed for each type of service (i.e., hospital inpatient detoxification, hospital inpatient treatment, non-hospital residential detoxification, etc.) and summed to the larger service type totals (total hospital inpatient clients, total non-hospital residential clients, and total outpatient clients), and finally to total clients.

Further Data Considerations and Limitations

As with any data collection effort, certain procedural considerations and data limitations must be taken into account when interpreting data from the 2004 N-SSATS. Some general issues are listed below, and other considerations are detailed in Appendix C. Considerations and limitations of specific data items are discussed where the data are presented.

Organization of the Report

The balance of this report is organized into five analytic sections. Chapter 2 presents broad trends in facility characteristics for 1998 to 2004.
Chapter 3 presents broad trends in client characteristics for 1998 to 2004. Chapter 4 describes key characteristics of facilities and the programs and services they provide. Chapter 5 describes key characteristics of clients in substance abuse treatment on March 31, 2004. Finally, Chapter 6 presents State-level detail for most of the tables presented in Chapters 4 and 5.


The majority of tables in the report are organized according to facility operation and the primary focus of the facility, and present data on the characteristics of facilities and clients in treatment at these facilities. Therefore, it is important to define these terms.

Facility operation indicates the type of entity responsible for the operation of the facility: private for-profit; private non-profit; or government—local, county, or community; State; Federal; or tribal.

Primary focus indicates the services the facility primarily provides: substance abuse treatment services; mental health services; a mix of mental health and substance abuse treatment services; general health care; or other.

Clients in treatment were defined as: 1) hospital inpatient and non-hospital residential clients receiving substance abuse services at the facility on March 31, 2004; and 2) outpatient clients who were seen at the facility for a substance abuse treatment or detoxification service at least once during the month of March 2004, and who were still enrolled in treatment as of March 31, 2004.

1 The jurisdictions include the territory of Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands of the United States.

2 In this report, entities responding to N-SSATS are referred to as "facilities." As discussed later in the report, a "facility" may be a program-level, clinic-level, or multi-site respondent.