Richland County

Richland County Free Flow Program Provides Free Menstrual Health Supplies

January 24, 2023

Where is Richland County and Why Should We All Know About It?

Situated about an hour southwest of Cleveland, Ohio is scenic Richland County. Maybe you haven’t heard of Richland County before, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some menstrual magic happening there!

At the county’s Public Health department, the team is tasked with “making sure everyone is living healthy and has access to care.” In Richland County, approximately 26,000 people could be menstruating on any given day…which means that access to period products is an important part of having access to care. 

Who is Dr. Julie Chaya? 

When Dr. Julie Chaya started her role as the Director of Community Health & Prevention Sciences at Richland Public Health, she was very clear on the mission – to accomplish health equity throughout the county, and to create a place for “healthy living, working, and playing.” 

Having worked on small-scale menstrual health projects during her Ph.D. program, Dr. Chaya considered why a county like San Diego could implement free period products, but a county like Richland County couldn’t. Of course, this boiled down to its rural geography and smaller local economy. 

If you’ve ever met Dr. Chaya, you know that something like that wasn’t going to stop her. She was determined to create a menstrual equity solution in the county that would be called Free Flow. Dr. Chaya started working with food pantries, students, donation programs, and even couponing with civic organizations. 

Then Aunt Flow came along… 

The Plan – Community Public Health Tackles Menstrual Equity 

Once Dr. Chaya connected with the Aunt Flow team, she knew she’d found the solution to menstrual equity in Richland County. To get started, she identified where people would be able to access the products the most, focusing particularly on underserved communities. 

A local foundation then stepped up to cover the cost of the products in all public libraries across the county. With Richland Public Health and the local foundation covering the start-up cost (i.e. the cost of the dispenser), the libraries were able to take over the refill costs to keep period products stocked! Dr. Chaya described this as a “huge quality of life investment,” for library patrons and others in the community. 

The next step was for the health department to create “bundles” for community partners. These would include the dispenser and products in one bundle for easy implementation. 

After Aunt Flow dispensers were installed, Dr. Chaya’s team kept track of how many units and products were installed/dispensed each month. They would also ask community members to take surveys to report on their experience – oftentimes offering incentives, such as a month’s supply of period products, or even a swag bag! 

Richland Public Health

The Roadblocks

Despite early success with pilot programs, not everything flowed so smoothly. According to Dr. Chaya, there were three major roadblocks during implementation:

  1. Cost was always the number one question
  2. How to prevent people from vandalizing the Aunt Flow dispensers
  3. How to get men in the community to support this program 

With every barrier comes innovation and solutions. Dr. Chaya ensured that every dispenser was paired with education resources. There was a QR placed next to each dispenser to help community members understand the program and why it was important. In regards to concerns about vandalism, she did not find any evidence that this was actually occurring and showed these reports to key stakeholders. 

These obstacles boiled down to a need for education and data-driven conversations. Dr. Chaya said to view each roadblock as “an opportunity to meet your stakeholders and end users where they are.” If this means having seemingly uncomfortable conversations, making educational resources more readily available, or working out the costs on a whiteboard… All of that is a worthwhile solution. 

When it comes to engaging male stakeholders in a menstrual health program, Dr. Chaya recommends giving visual and kinetic presentations (have the dispenser and products there to check out), and using analogies to men’s health so that non-menstruators can relate. 

Richland Flow Bro

Results and Changes

When Dr. Chaya began her quest to improve access to period products in Richland County, she was determined to find a solution that was accessible for all menstruators. After implementation, Dr. Chaya said that “Aunt Flow helped satisfy those needs by having dispensers that house both pads and tampons, that are ADA compliant, and that have room for a QR code to share educational information.” It was important to “make sure folks were using healthy products,” for the body and for the environment, which is why the organic cotton products and recyclable packaging materials were such a hit! 

Overall, Dr. Chaya said that the Aunt Flow program in Richland County has been “super successful,” and that her team “cannot keep up with the number of new participants that want to take part in this program.” Teens are frequently seen around the community carrying the products, and people are keen to see Aunt Flow in their part of the county. 

Not only have end users been excited about the menstrual health program, but numerous funding partners have come on board to further expand access across Richland County. 

The Journey to Aunt Flow

What’s Next? 

Looking toward the future, Dr. Chaya and the Richland County team are ready to continue expanding the program to nonprofits and schools. They’ve also got their sights on local businesses that are considering joining the menstrual movement. Ultimately, Dr. Chaya says she wanted Richland County to be “a place where everyone feels welcome and included,” and that means having access to basic necessities like period products. 

If you’re still unsure if Aunt Flow is the right fit for you and your community or organization, Dr. Chaya would tell you, “There is no need to waste time looking into a competitor. This is your one-stop shop for everything menstrual equity. You’re not going to find another organization that’s established and accomplishing what you want to do in a timely and cost-effective manner.” 

Ready to get things flowing? Get a quick estimate using our pricing calculator then shop Aunt Flow products and start building your period program!

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Stay in the flow — we’ll send you period positivity + timely updates on the menstrual movement.

claire coder,founder + ceo

claire coder,
founder + ceo

Hi! I’m Claire. I founded Aunt Flow after getting my period in public without the supplies needed.

Founded in 2016, Aunt Flow is a certified WBENC women-owned company based in Columbus, Ohio. At 18 years old, I dedicated my life to developing a solution to ensure businesses and schools could sustainably provide quality period products, for free, in bathrooms. Our products are made with organic cotton (no weird stuff) and we are constantly working to reduce our environmental impact! For every 10 tampons and pads we sell, we donate 1 to a menstruator in need. I call this people helping people. PERIOD.®