Health and Human Services. In addition, the Office of National Drug Control Policy directly sponsors data collection. In many cases, these agencies collect statistics on illegal drugs as a part of a broader survey or data collection. For example, the National Center for Health Statistics has collected information relating to illegal drugs as a part of its National Health Interview Survey and the Bureau of Justice Statistics has collected such data as a part of the Census of Jails. Other systems are more targeted to illegal drug-related issues, such as the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program of the National Institute of Justice and the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
In the long run, the quality of the statistical data on illegal drugs will be enhanced if data collection efforts are consolidated into a smaller number of agencies that either conduct or sponsor the major data collection. In the committee’s view, there are many different routes to consolidate data collection, and we recognize that the final form will depend on the focus of the effort and the evolution of capabilities among different agencies. The major point is not that there is a single right way to consolidate efforts. Rather, when decisions are made about the structure of data collection, a decision that over the long run furthers consolidation is preferable to one that further fragments or reinforces the existing fragmentation of data collection efforts.
The committee reviewed a number of different possible models for consolidation of data collection. One that appears attractive would organize the major current data collections into two lead statistical agencies: one for health-related data and one for justice-related data. For example, the health-related data might be consolidated in the National Center for Health Statistics, while data related to law enforcement might be collected primarily by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. These two agencies are identified because they have evolved into full-line statistical agencies with professional statistical staffs and a considerable degree of independence.
If data collection efforts are consolidated in a smaller number of agencies, it will be important to retain the expertise and continuity of effort of existing agencies. There are a number of ways to ensure that the transitional costs are minimized:
Statistical agencies could improve the quality of the data by placing actual data collection in agencies with the greatest expertise in the collection of data in particular formats. For example, school-based surveys could draw on the expertise of the National Center for Education Statistics, hospital-based surveys could draw on the expertise of the National Center for Health Statistics, and justice-based surveys could draw on the expertise of the Bureau of Justice Statistics.