Quick Takes

Kentucky’s largest city giving away free period products

By: - October 13, 2023 3:02 pm

Eighteen of Louisville’s health department and Metro Hall public-facing bathrooms just got period product dispensers thanks to a $1,000 investment from the city’s Office of Women. (Photo provided).

LOUISVILLE – Eighteen of Louisville’s health department and Metro Hall public-facing bathrooms just got period products dispensers thanks to an investment of around a $1,000 from the city’s Office of Women. 

The free products are part of a pilot program that city leaders said Friday is a step toward health equity and also a worthwhile investment in the workforce. 

Getting a period unexpectedly at work or school can force a person to go home and miss out on income or education, said Gretchen Hunt, the director of the Office for Women. 

Period need is a public health issue,” said Connie Mendel, the interim chief health strategist for Louisville Metro. Providing tampons and pads in public restrooms is no different than providing toilet paper, she said. 

“Lack of access to period products can not only lead to lower productivity by workers or students, but it can also lead to mental health issues like depression,” Mendel said. 

This goes back to the “stigma” surrounding menstruation, she said. Providing period products is a hygiene service as well as a physical, mental, social and economic service, she added. 

“People who (don’t have) products may also try to extend the life of a tampon, which can certainly cause discomfort and health complications, putting them at a greater risk … for toxic shock syndrome, which can be a life threatening infection.” 

The Office for Women estimates that 20% of Kentucky women live in poverty. They also estimate about 20% of teenagers can’t afford period products. Menstruation supplies can cost about $9,000 per person over a lifetime. 

The city’s free products will be available in women’s, men’s and gender neutral bathrooms. 

“These products are available for anyone who needs them, including a father who needs to supply his daughters … with period products,” Mendel said. 

Additionally, the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) is donating period product disposal bins to Louisville Metro Parks. 

Statewide, students lobbied the general assembly this year to exempt period products from sales tax. The bipartisan bill did not advance

The Office for Women supports removing that, but it’s “out of our hands” at the statewide level, Hunt said. People need to be educated about the issue, she added. That will decrease stigma and raise awareness about the importance of these hygiene items. 

“The reality is (period products are) not luxury goods,” she said. “They’re necessities.” 

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Sarah Ladd
Sarah Ladd

Sarah Ladd is a Louisville-based journalist from West Kentucky who's covered everything from crime to higher education. She spent nearly two years on the metro breaking news desk at The Courier Journal. In 2020, she started reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and has covered health ever since. As the Kentucky Lantern's health reporter, she focuses on mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, children's welfare, COVID-19 and more.

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