With more than 600 substance abuse treatment providers in the United States receiving grants, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) must monitor a complex, decentralized network. Accurate information on the performance of these providers is essential to the effective use of public funding, and required by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993, as updated by the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010.
To gather this information, SAMHSA needs a system that both SAMHSA staff and grantees can access and use easily. The system must serve both government agencies and hospitals with large management information systems, and also the smallest service providers, with little or no IT infrastructure, and minimize the reporting burden on all grantees. The system must also provide a clear benefit to grantees, because SAMHSA knows they are much more likely to provide data if they can see a benefit to their own program.
Adding Technological Features to Increase Clarity and Accountability
To meet this challenge, SAMHSA created the Services Accountability Improvement System (SAIS)—a web-based application that tracks service delivery and grantee performance, using information about client demographics, histories of substance abuse, and treatment outcomes. SAIS allows large providers to submit treatment data in batches, while small providers can enter data directly on the website. The system also makes more than 30 useful performance management reports available to all grantees, and to SAMHSA staff.
In 2008, RTI took over operation of SAIS and led the development of a number of enhancements:
- A new Performance Management Dashboard Interface that allows the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and its grantees to quickly access performance management data through graphical reports
- Map-based reports that combine SAIS data with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health
- Custom dashboard reports that allow users to specify and save their own reports
- The SAIS Online Learning Center (SOLC), which allows grantees to register and participate in on-demand trainings, live trainer-led webinars, and face-to-face trainings
- A significantly enhanced technical assistance request system.
Streamlining the User Experience for Providers and Our Client
Using reports created in SAIS, SAMHSA staff members can evaluate how well the providers are serving their target populations and meeting their client and budget targets. SAMHSA gains hard evidence on performance and costs, as well as the ability to respond quickly to requests from policymakers. SAIS helps make the entire mental health and substance abuse treatment system more accountable.
Improvements in responding to ad hoc information requests from SAMHSA—including using the dashboard reports suite—resulted in 99 percent of requests being delivered within the time committed and nearly 90 percent of SAMHSA requests completed in less than one hour.
The enhanced suite of dashboard reports also provided key performance information to grantees without having to check multiple reports, and the custom dashboard reports greatly reduced the time to specify and run more detailed reports.
The SOLC added many new training opportunities and made them available online 24 hours a day. To date, almost 3,000 grantees have used the SOLC for an on-demand course to improve their performance.
We conducted more than 12,000 training sessions, including webinars that help grantees make better use of the system. In addition to the on-site technical assistance opportunities, we developed 25 online technical assistance packages to help grantees meet common challenges and use their SAIS data more effectively. This in turn will ultimately improve the quality of care delivered to clients.