National Drug Information Treatment and Referral Hotline, NIDA/SAMHSA

Operating the toll-free community assistance information and referral service.

Cygnus operated the National Drug Information Treatment and Referral Hotline, a toll-free information and referral service established in conjunction with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) campaign to provide community assistance information to substance abusers, their families and friends, and others who sought treatment or assistance for drug problems.

Services were advertised through a variety of joint efforts by the National  Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), where the hotline moved to, and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, as well as through media efforts (television, radio, and print) of the Advertising Council. Cygnus responded to more than 12,000 calls per month; oversaw database development and management; provided data collection, analysis, and reporting; and developed and maintained a computerized database of treatment resources and referrals for thousands of communities nationwide.

The Hotline’s staff consisted of both English- and Spanish-speaking certified alcohol and drug counselors and information specialists, in addition to three supervisors. The staff received continuing professional development through seminars, workshops, and internal training presentations. The Hotline operated 13 hours/day, 7 days/week, offered a telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD) line, the AYUDA line for Spanish-speaking callers, and eight lines for English-speaking callers. Some of the capabilities provided by Cygnus include the following:

  • Health information management, processing, and retrieval;
  • Database development;
  • Information response and referral, including on-line services; and
  • Technology for disseminating information, including information hotlines and full-text imaging technology and electronic networks.

Special Features

A major accomplishment of the contract was the development of a comprehensive database of referral resources that listed prevention and treatment programs for all U.S. states and territories. Counselors and information specialists accessed the directory through an on-line database while talking to the callers. This database allowed the Hotline staff to provide resources in a specific geographic area simply by entering the caller’s zip code, city, and state. Cygnus continually updated the resources listed in the database. In addition to using the online database, the information specialists collected and entered pertinent data on the callers—always protecting the callers’ anonymity—into an automated call database system developed by Cygnus. Data elements collected included demographics (city/State/zip code, age, sex), primary drug of choice, other drugs used, frequency of use, mode of use, and length of use. Questions also were asked about the characteristics of intravenous drug use, such as needle-sharing habits. The automated system generated tables and charts each month listing the caller information by category and these statistics were provided to CSAT and NIDA, as well as to each state’s or territory’s department of health.

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