Hamilton County now offers free menstrual products in bathrooms


CINCINNATI — Hamilton County has installed more than 70 free periodicals dispensers in public restrooms in county-owned buildings as a “small but significant step” toward addressing systemic gender inequality, according to Commissioner Denise Driehaus.

What do you want to know

  • Hamilton County installed 74 free periodicals dispensers inside county-owned buildings
  • Hamilton County commissioners, who approved funding for the project, view it as a matter of fairness
  • The cost of menstrual products has risen 10% over the past year, and proponents believe the costs have led some people to go without this ‘necessity’
  • The idea originated from the Hamilton County Commission on Women and Girls, a council that makes recommendations to address gender inequality

The products – tampons and pads – are free for employees but also for the public.

The three Hamilton County commissioners voted to install vending machines in county buildings, ranging from the county administration building to the courthouse to Hamilton County Jobs and Family Services.

Hamilton County purchased 110 vintage product dispensers for use in county-owned buildings. The county plans to expand the program at the request of specific agencies. (Photo courtesy of Hamilton County)

Driehaus called it a matter of fairness.

The data of the Alliance for Vintage Supplies shows that 2 in 5 women struggle to buy menstrual products due to a lack of income, while a third of low-income women reported missing work, school or similar commitments because they did not have access to menstrual supplies.

“We know period poverty is real. When there is access to free vintage products, students stay in class longer and workers are more productive,” Driehaus said. “We need to move beyond the stigma and see menstrual products for what they are – a basic necessity.”

The 74 dispensers of free menstrual products are located in gender-neutral and women’s washrooms at the following locations:

  • Hamilton County Juvenile Court Youth Center

  • Hamilton County Public Health Unit

  • Times-Star Building (800 Broadway)

  • Hamilton County Job and Family Services, Alms and Doepke Building

  • Hamilton County Courthouse

  • Hamilton County Justice Center

  • Todd B. Portune Center for County Government

  • William Howard Taft Center

  • Hamilton County Communications Center (911 dispatch)

  • Sheriff Patrol Headquarters

  • Hamilton County Coroner’s Office and Crime Lab

The county purchased 110 of the dispensers from a local small business. Other county agencies may request one of the remaining distributors.

The original cost of period dispensers and products was $25,190, said county spokeswoman Bridget Doherty. Going forward, the county plans to incorporate the cost of tampons and pads into the line item for toilet paper.

It’s the approach promoted by Free the Tamponsan advocacy group based in Columbus, Ohio.

The non-profit organization released a report showing that 86% of women started their periods in public and without access to menstrual hygiene supplies. Data showed that 79% of women surveyed said they had to resort to creating makeshift substitutes for menstrual supplies from toilet paper or similar items available in restrooms.

“We never question the free supply of toilet paper and soap in public toilets,” added Commission President Stephanie Summerow Dumas. “Why wouldn’t we offer the same essential access to basic hygiene products like tampons and pads? »

The idea for the distributors came from the Hamilton County Commission on Women and Girls. Its members are 20 adults and 10 high school students appointed by the Board of Commissioners. It is their job to make recommendations to the board on how to eliminate any distinctions, exclusions or restrictions based on gender.

Driehaus founded the commission in 2017. Since then, the group has worked on a variety of projects, ranging from health care to employment practices. The commission also worked on the successful repeal of the so-called “pink tax” in Ohio that went into effect in 2020.

“The Commission on Women and Girls is thrilled to see this initiative come to fruition and proud of Hamilton County for leading by example,” said Mary Maune, Program Coordinator.

Providing free menstrual products has been a top priority for the group in recent years, Maune said, because the cost of menstrual products is “exorbitant”.

The average cost of tampons has increased by nearly 10% over the past year, the Washington Post reported in June.

Federal assistance programs like WIC and SNAP do not cover the cost of tampons and other menstrual products. They also don’t cover the costs of diapers, which are also more expensive right now due to inflation, Maune said.

“If you’re ever struggling to buy food for your family or pay rent, something like vintage goods can feel like a luxury item you just can’t afford,” he said. -she adds. “But these are not luxuries or nice things to have. These are necessities. We wanted to make sure people in need had access to it.

In April, the The Commission on Women and Girls organized what Maune called a “signing day” of the pay equity commitment. The event called on local employers to sign a voluntary pledge to do their part to close gender and race-based pay gaps.

The commission is taking a similar approach with this issue, Maune said, asking schools, businesses and places where people gather to follow the county’s lead in providing free period products.

MadTree Brewing heard what Hamilton County was doing and followed suit, Maune said. She said the Cincinnati-based beer maker has already installed dispensers in its brewery and Alcove, the restaurant it operates in Over-the-Rhine.

“We’re really using today as a launchpad and the start of a conversation about doing more to show our support to show our support for women and menstruators in our communities,” Maune added.

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Rozella J. Cook