HHS Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated to the Public. VI. Agency Administrative Complaint Procedures


SAMSHA has developed administrative mechanisms to allow affected persons to seek and obtain correction of disseminated information that does not comply with OMB, HHS and SAMSHA guidelines.

At SAMHSA, the Director, Office of Communications (OC) will have overall responsibility for implementing SAMHSA's Information Quality Guidelines and coordinating this effort with other SAMHSA Centers and Offices. All complaints may be sent to:

Charlene Lewis
Office of Communications
Room 8-1023
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
1 Choke Cherry Road
Rockville, MD 20857

Alternatively, complaints may be e-mailed to:  charlene.lewis@samhsa.hhs.gov

OC is the central office for communications at SAMHSA. As such, OC takes the lead across SAMHSA for setting communications policy and for communicating information about SAMHSA programs, issues, and accomplishments to the public, public interest groups, and to the scientific community. OC is the communications link between SAMHSA's components and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (OASPA) in HHS and serves as the coordinating office or central source for matters related to SAMHSA publications, including printing, HHS/SAMHSA clearance and review procedures, Joint Committee on Printing, U.S. Congress, and Government Printing Office printing and binding regulations, and copyright rules. Among its many activities, the office produces and distributes a number of publications that highlight SAMHSA achievements. OC also support and coordinates the principal contents of the SAMHSA web site (www.samhsa.gov).

As the lead office for SAMHSA Information Quality, OC responsibilities include:

Developing policies and procedures to effectively meet the requirements of the OMB Information Quality Guidelines;

Providing information and/or training to SAMHSA staff on their responsibility in meeting Federal requirements and SAMHSA policies on ensuring the quality of information disseminated to the public;

Assisting in the review of information quality complaints;

Reviewing the proposed SAMHSA Center or Office response for appropriateness and assisting in finalizing a response;

Establishing a tracking database for complaints, with information on the type of complaint and its disposition, whether the complaint was deemed inapplicable or frivolous, and any resolution or corrective action taken;

Submitting an annual report on behalf of SAMHSA to HHS with the number and types of complaints, and the actions taken, in time for the HHS to report to OMB by January 1 (beginning in 2004);

Posting on the SAMHSA web site any further clarifications, guidelines, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about handling SAMHSA information complaints;

Making available examples of typical complaints and appropriate responses collected from SAMHSA Center

  1. Responsibility of the Complainant

    To seek a correction of information disseminated by the agency, individuals should follow the procedures described below.

    1. A complaint or request for review and correction of information shall be in written hard copy or electronic form;
    2. it shall be sent to the agency by mail or electronic-mail (e-mail); and
    3. it shall state that an information quality request for correction is being submitted.

    The complaint shall contain

    1. a detailed description of the specific material that needs to be corrected including where the material is located, i.e. the publication title, date, and publication number, if any, or the Web site and Web page address (url), or the speech title, presenter, date and place of delivery; and
    2. the specific reasons for believing the information does not comply with OMB, HHS or SAMHSA guidelines and is in error and supporting documentation, if any;
    3. the specific recommendations for correcting the information;
    4. a description of how the person submitting the complaint is affected by the information error; and
    5. the name, mailing address, telephone number, e-mail address, and organizational affiliation, if any, of the individual making the complaint.

    Complainants should be aware that they bear the ‘burden of proof’ with respect to the necessity for correction as well as with respect to the type of correction they seek.

  2. Responsibility of the Agency

    Based on a review of the information provided, the agency will determine whether a correction is warranted and, if so, what action to take. The agency will respond to the requestor by letter or e-mail. The agency's response will explain the findings of the review and the actions that the agency will take, if any. The response will consider the nature and timeliness of the information involved and such factors as the significance of the correction on the use of the information and the magnitude of the correction. The response will describe how the complainant may request reconsideration. The agency will respond to all requests for correction within 60 calendar days of receipt. If the request requires more than 60 calendar days to resolve, the agency will inform the complainant that more time is required and indicate the reason why and an estimated decision date.

  3. Appeals

    If the individual submitting the complaint does not agree with the agency's decision (including the corrective action, if any), the complainant may send a written hard copy or electronic request for reconsideration within 30 days of receipt of the agency's decision. The appeal shall state the reasons why the agency response is insufficient or inadequate. Complainants shall attach a copy of their original request and the agency response to it, clearly mark the appeal with the words, Information Quality Appeal and send the appeal to the specific agency appeals address.

    The agency official who resolved the original complaint will not have responsibility for the appeal.

  4. Appropriate Responses

    The agency will respond to all requests for appeals within 60 calendar days of receipt. If the request requires more than 60 calendar days to resolve, the agency will inform the complainant that more time is required and indicate the reason why and an estimated decision date.

    SAMHSA may respond in a number of possible ways, including:

    • Issue a written retraction;
    • Suspend further dissemination of the information in question;
    • Reprint the publication with corrections;
    • Refer the complainant to the underlying data;
    • Arrange for an independent re-analysis of the data by SAMHSA or a mutually acceptable third party if the data are not publicly available and the complaint involves "influential scientific or statistical information." Complainants must agree to pay the costs of re-analysis or the process terminates.