Chapter 1

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

Data Collection Procedures for the 2011 N-SSATS
Facility Selection for the 2011 N-SSATS Report
Survey Response Mode
Data Considerations and Limitations
Organization of the Report

This report presents tabular information and highlights from the 2011 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS), conducted between March and October 2011, with a reference date of March 31, 2011. It is the 34th in a series of national surveys begun in the 1970s. The surveys were designed to collect data on the location, characteristics, and use of alcohol and drug treatment facilities and services throughout the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions.4 The Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 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 facilities5 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 A.)

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:

4 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.
5 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.

Data Collection Procedures for the 2011 N-SSATS

Field period and reference date

The survey reference date for the 2011 N-SSATS was March 31, 2011. The field period was from March 31, 2011 through October 24, 2011.

Survey universe

The 2011 N-SSATS facility universe totaled 17,376 facilities, including all 17,043 active treatment facilities on SAMHSA's I-SATS at a point 6 weeks before the survey reference date and 333 facilities that were added by State substance abuse agencies or otherwise discovered during the first 3 months of the survey.


The 2011 N-SSATS questionnaire was a 13-page document with 41 numbered questions (see Appendix B). Topics included:

Data collection

Three data collection modes were employed: a secure web-based questionnaire, a paper questionnaire sent by mail, and a telephone interview. Five weeks before the survey reference date (March 31, 2011), letters were mailed to all facilities to announce the survey. The letters also served to update records with new address information received from the U.S. Postal Service. During the last week of March 2011, data collection packets (including the SAMHSA cover letter, State-specific letter of endorsement, State profile, information on completing the survey on the web, and a sheet of Frequently Asked Questions) were mailed to each facility. Initially, respondents could also request a paper questionnaire be sent to them. During the data collection phase, contract personnel were available to answer facilities' questions concerning the survey. Web-based support for facilities completing the questionnaire on the web was also available. Three to 4 weeks after the initial data collection packet mailing, thank you/reminder letters were sent to all facilities. Approximately 8 weeks after the initial packet mailing, non-responding facilities were mailed a second packet that included a hard copy questionnaire. About 3 to 4 weeks after the questionnaire mailing, non-respondents received a reminder telephone call. Those facilities that had not responded within 3 to 4 weeks of the reminder call were telephoned and asked to complete the survey by computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI).

Facility status and response rate

Table 1.1 presents a summary of response rate information. There were 17,376 facilities in the survey universe. Of these facilities, 12 percent were found to be ineligible for the survey because they had closed or did not provide substance abuse treatment or detoxification. Of the remaining 15,222 facilities, 14,302
facilities (94 percent) completed the survey and 13,720 (90 percent) were eligible for this report.

Quality assurance

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

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

Item non-response was minimized through careful editing and extensive follow-up. The item response rate for the 2011 N-SSATS averaged 98.6 percent across 195 separate items. Appendix C details item response rates and imputation procedures.

Facility Selection for the 2011 N-SSATS Report

Table 1.1. The N-SSATS questionnaire serves several purposes, as noted earlier. Three hundred thirty-four of the 14,302 questionnaire respondents provided information but were deemed out of the scope of this report. They were excluded from the analyses presented here. The excluded facilities and reasons for exclusion fell into three categories:

An additional 248 facilities whose client counts were included in or "rolled into" other facilities' counts and whose facility characteristics were not reported separately were excluded from facility counts in this report. However, their client counts are included.

After the exclusion of 334 out-of-scope facilities and 248 rolled-up facilities, 13,720 eligible respondent facilities were included in the 2011 N-SSATS report.

Number of respondents reporting facility and client data

There were 13,720 eligible respondents to the 2011 N-SSATS. The breakdown of facility data and client counts reported by these respondents is summarized below.

Survey Response Mode

Figure 1. The proportion of facilities using the web survey to respond to N-SSATS has increased steadily since introduction of the option in 2002. The percentage of facilities responding via the web increased from 44 percent in 2007 to 79 percent in 2011. Mail response declined from 36 percent in 2007 to 8 percent in 2011. Telephone response, which represents follow-up of facilities that had not responded by mail or web, also declined, from 21 percent in 2007 to 12 percent in 2011.

Figure 1
Survey Response Mode: 2007-2011

Stacked bar chart comparing Survey Response Mode: 2007-2011

SOURCE: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration, National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS), 2007-2011.

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 2011 N-SSATS. Some general issues are listed below; other considerations are detailed in Appendix A. 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 the following chapters.


The majority of tables in the report are organized by facility operation and by primary focus of the facility. Therefore, it is important to define these terms.

To Chapter 1 Table

To table of contents

Table of Contents