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National Mental Health Services Survey


The National Mental Health Services Survey (N-MHSS) is designed to collect information from all specialty mental health facilities in the United States, both public and private, that provide mental health treatment services to persons with mental illness. N-MHSS provides the mechanism for quantifying the dynamic character and composition of the United States mental health treatment delivery system.

The N-MHSS is designed to collect data on the location, characteristics, and utilization of organized mental health treatment service providers throughout the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. The N-MHSS is the only source of national and State-level data on the mental health services delivery system reported by both publicly-operated and privately-operated specialty mental health care facilities in the U.S.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Data Years Available: 
2010 - present
Annual. Full questionnaire is conducted biennially. In alternate years, an abbreviated locator questionnaire is conducted to update facility information.
Mode of Collection: 
Mixed mode: Mail questionnaire, telephone interview, web-based survey
Selected Content: 
The following topics are included: • Facility type, operation, and primary treatment focus. • Facility treatment characteristics (e.g., settings of care; mental health treatment approaches, supportive services/practices, and special programs offered; crisis intervention team availability; and seclusion and restraint practices). • Facility operating characteristics (e.g., age groups accepted; services provided in non-English languages; and smoking policy). • Facility management characteristics (e.g., computerized functionality; licensure, certification, and accreditation; standard operating procedures; and sources of payment and funding). • Client demographic characteristics.
Population Covered: 
All known specialty mental health facilities (both public and private) in the United States and its territories.

N-MHSS is a point-prevalence survey. It provides information on the mental health treatment system and its clients as of a pre-selected reference date (for the 2010 N-MHSS, it was April 30, 2010). The N-MHSS provides a "snapshot" of mental health treatment facilities and clients on an average day or month. N-MHSS collects data about facilities, not individual clients. Three data collection modes were employed in 2010: a secure web-based questionnaire, a paper questionnaire sent by mail, and a computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI). The following types of mental health treatment facilities were included in the 2010 N-MHSS; psychiatric hospitals, non-federal general hospitals with a separate psychiatric unit, VA medical centers, outpatient or day treatment or partial hospitalization mental health facilities, residential treatment centers (RTCs) for children, residential treatment centers (RTCs) for adults, and multi-setting (multi-service, non-hospital) mental health facilities.

The following types of facilities were excluded from the sample; Department of Defense military treatment facilities, Indian Health Services-administered or tribally-operated facilities, private practitioners or small group practices not licensed as a mental health clinic or center, and jails or prisons.

Response Rates and Sample Size: 

Of the 16,197 mental health treatment facilities in the 2010 survey, 24.8 percent were found to be ineligible for the survey because they did not provide mental health treatment services, had a primary treatment focus of substance abuse services or general health care, provided treatment for incarcerated persons only (i.e., in jails or prisons), or were an individual or small group mental health practice not licensed or certified as a mental health center or clinic. Ninety-one percent of the 12,186 eligible facilities completed the survey, including 692 facilities that provided administrative services only. Half of the respondents (53.4 percent) completed the survey on the web, 24.4 percent through the mail, and 22.2 percent on the telephone.

Interpretation Issues: 

The N-MHSS is a point-prevalence survey. It provides information on the mental health treatment system and its clients as of a pre-selected reference date (e.g., April 30, 2010). Client counts reported here do not represent annual totals. Rather, the N-MHSS provides a “snapshot” of mental health treatment facilities and clients on an average day or month.


United States Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. National Mental Health Services Survey (N-MHSS), 2010. ICPSR34945-v2. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2014-04-03. doi:10.3886/ICPSR34945.v2.