Modernizing access to key behavioral health data

Elevating the SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality with resources to better provide the public with timely access to mental health and substance abuse trends.
Results at a glance
increase in data site traffic
increase in average time spent on data site

The Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ) at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the lead federal government agency for mental health and substance abuse data. The purpose of the data site is to provide audiences with the latest behavioral health data and statistics. To address usability and performance issues, ICF Next redesigned the data site, which included an overhaul of the information architecture and taxonomy, visual design, content, and backend architecture in Drupal 8.



Create a cohesive, audience-friendly experience across multiple systems in order to improve access to mental health and substance abuse data.


Employ a blended Agile and human-centered design approach to redesign SAMHSA’s systems and deliver incremental improvements to statistical analysis tools.


Redesigned, deployed, and delivered data site led to incremental enhancements regarding data access and utility.

26% increase in data site traffic

10% increase in organic search volume

18% increase in average time spent on data site

28% increase in data file downloads

Designing for end-users

ICF Next conducted lightweight and continuous user testing to inform the design and development of the data site redesign. Initial interviews and listening sessions with CBHSQ stakeholders provided a baseline understanding of user needs, business goals, pain points, and areas of interest. Our user experience team conducted carefully choreographed half-day working sessions to engage CBHSQ stakeholders at key points. These workshops defined the vision for the website, high-level requirements, and stakeholder needs. We then created both personas and need analysis matrices to guide the content strategy and design for the data site redesign. Based on these personas, we conducted remote, web-based usability testing to validate hypotheses and working prototypes, and leveraged the platform to test with representative users. We implemented governance for the SAMHSA taxonomy.

Tackling taxonomy challenges

Our team conducted numerous card sorts using Optimal Workshop with subject matter experts across various CBHSQ disciplines to reorganize and refine the list of taxonomy terms for various vocabularies. This work lays the foundation for the overhaul of the entire taxonomy and the content migration of over 2,500 reports. Our team implemented a faceted navigation to help users understand the content space, and give them ideas about available content and how to search for it. ICF led several trainings on writing for the web, shared best practices for tagging content, and developed templates for CBHSQ authors to write evergreen content for the data site.

Modernizing the backend systems

ICF Next redesigned legacy applications to publish reports using the Drupal 8 web content management system and migrated the sites into the SAMHSA GovCloud. We introduced and implemented the Solr search solution, which was adopted by

"ICF continues to exceed contractual requirements and provide quality work to the government’s benefit. They go above and beyond in providing things that are needed using independent thinking within contractual boundaries, and they even collaborate with other SAMHSA contracts and contractors to ensure quality of work for the agency is above par."

— Contract Officer’s Representative

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