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An 18F+SAMHSA Collaboration

Project background

The opioid epidemic is overwhelming in scale and complexity. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. To combat this crisis, 11+ federal agencies, dozens of state agencies, and other providers have mobilized resources. Currently, resources and websites in this space are so fragmented that searching for help online can become an overwhelming and discouraging experience for people in crisis.

Problem statement

People looking for substance use treatment for themselves or others have varied and complex needs: people often don’t know what will be right for their situation or next steps to take, and find that the available information doesn’t answer their specific questions in terms they understand. Presenting too many options, or options in terms that visitors don’t understand can be cognitively overwhelming. in context

Since will exist in a complex ecosystem of federal, state, and local resources for substance use disorder (addiction, serious mental illness, treatment, and recovery), we've limited the scope to focus on supporting people as they look for treatment for themselves and others. will support people in taking that next step in their journey to find treatment, whether it’s learning more about addiction, calling the Helpline, or calling a provider.

Target audience

We intentionally focused on learning from people who are looking for a treatment location for themselves or on behalf of others, who may not know all the variables to consider during that search. As such, the searcher and helper archetypes are our primary audiences for

While practitioners and subject-matter experts (SUD providers, medical specialists) may find value in the new interface, our focus for this phase of research has not been testing the usability with this group. This is because this tool is not directly intended to support them. Our user-testing focused on assessing the ability of people without experience or professional support in finding treatment to effectively navigate the interface, and gauging whether the content is approachable and understandable for those groups.

Guiding principles

The problem statement remains the same as it did at the start of this project, and protecting the user experience of the tool is paramount. We recommend using these guiding principles as you continue this work of improving the user experience of people finding substance use treatment:

  1. Make it simple
    • Lower the cognitive load
    • Accessibility
    • Design for crisis
    • Address the reader using plain language
  2. Make it accurate
    • Lay the groundwork for increasing the quality of facility data
    • Encourage people to learn more about what a substance use disorder is and what the path to treatment looks like.
    • Lets them know what to expect when they contact and go to a treatment facility
    • The returned results match the needs of the visitor
  3. Make it supportive
    • Make people empowered and capable of taking the next step (Get them to a person who can help)
    • Surface contextual content
    • Make it shareable
    • ID common roadblocks, and provide content to support moving forward

Prioritized backlog

Throughout the project, we have used a Github project board to manage a prioritized backlog of features. It includes enhancements that have come up repeatedly in user research, or ideas the team had to improve the current experience. This should not be interpreted as a to do list, but to serve as a foundation as SAMHSA continues to iterate.


If you'd like to report a bug or technical issue with the website, please feel free to submit an issue here. We'll do our best to respond.



Though we're not actively soliciting contributions, we'll make our best effort to collaborate. That said, we cannot make any promises about having time to review, comment on, or accept pull requests.

Pull requests should be made into the master branch and be sure to check out our contributing guide.

Public domain

This project is in the worldwide public domain. As stated in CONTRIBUTING:

This project is in the public domain within the United States, and copyright and related rights in the work worldwide are waived through the CC0 1.0 Universal public domain dedication.

All contributions to this project will be released under the CC0 dedication. By submitting a pull request, you are agreeing to comply with this waiver of copyright interest.

About, An 18F+SAMHSA Collaboration








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