TAYLOR COUNTY—The Planned Approach to Community Health (PATCH) Coalition has been hard at work to ensure that young females have much-needed period supplies, and they’re attempting to take their mission to officials in hopes of providing these products large-scale.
After reaching out to other counties in the state, PATCH President Alicia Lyons compiled data concerning the number of females within the county’s schools that would potentially be in need of period supplies, such as tampons, pads and wipes.
“Over the past year, I contacted the 55 counties in West Virginia about whether or not their schools provided menstruation products as part of their annual budgets,” she explained. “Twenty-four counties responded, and 16 of those 24 counties do include the expense as a way to provide this resource to their students.”
She reported that eight of the 24 counties, Taylor included, depend solely on outside donations to meet the need.
“As a community non-profit organization, PATCH ill continue to help however we can, but our funds are not guaranteed,” Lyons voiced. “We would, of course, assist in pursuing grants and other funding sources to help cover the costs of these products to the county.”
She further added that it is the belief of the Coalition that the ordering of supplies and the location of them in the schools’ bathrooms is the most cost-effective and efficient way to ensure the need is met.
“Having a policy in place would provide a long-term, consistent solution to this issue. With these dispensers in the middle and high schools, PATCH could continue to supply the elementary schools, as well as the Bread of Life Mission and the blessing boxes around the county in our continued efforts with Project Period,” Lyons explained.
Fully aware that the schools have tight budgets, she has drafted proposals for the Taylor County Board of Education, Grafton City Council and the Taylor County Commission.
Through their Project Period initiative, PATCH has been supplying menstrual products to every school in the county due to the high rate of poverty and the lack of resources many families face.
The project is aimed at helping females improve their attendance and performance at school, without having to worry about their monthly cycle. The products are supplied at no cost to the students.
“It is unfair to deny students that menstruate full access to the educational experience, including extracurricular activities at the school,” the proposal reads. “To promote a fair and equally accessible education for all Taylor County students, PATCH proposes that the Taylor County Board of Education include the cost of these supplies in their future budgets.”
It further states that as an assistance to the board, PATCH would be requesting the aid of other community resources such as the council, commission, Unicare, the United Way and the PATCH Coalition, itself.
“Our proposal includes purchasing a total of 17 non-coin machines for the female and unisex bathrooms located at Taylor County Middle School (TCMS) and Grafton High School (GHS),” she said. “The cost of these machines would be $3,366 from Amazon, and could be purchased with our tax-exempt status, with free shipping included.”
Through the proposition, PATCH would ask that the city council and county commission split the one-time cost, each contributing $1,683. She has yet to meet with the city and county but has secured a spot on the commission’s May 18 meeting agenda to discuss the proposal.
She will also address the PATCH Coalition on May 12 to pursue approval for the coverage of half of the period products for the non-coin dispensers for school year 2021-2022.
In addition, Lyons shared that she had reached out to the board of education in hopes of having them commit to a policy of providing period products to their students, free of charge.
After requesting to be put on the May 25 agenda for the Taylor County Board of Education and being denied a spot, Lyons has submitted another request to present the proposal to the board.
“I have not received a response at this time,” Lyons reported. “TCMS, as per Stacey Spadafore, is on board with us getting period product dispensers and supplies for the middle school. In addition, the Tygart Valley United Way is pledging $,1000 toward pads and tampons for the machines through their Handle With Care funds.”
She is now taking to the community for support of this project that would potentially aid approximately 800 females in the Taylor County School System: 329 students at GHS, 364 at TCMS, another 64 at Anna Jarvis Elementary School, 30 at West Taylor Elementary and 14 at Flemington Elementary School, per Census data.
“I’ve started a petition on change.org, that we have also shared on PATCH’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/PATCHcoalition, to gage community support for this,” Lyons voiced. “We would love for folks to sign the petition to show their support!”
The document can be viewed and signed at http://chng.it/SK6GTWHhP7. Lyons will also have paper copies that she will try to take around town for people to sign.
“If this policy is put in place, it could have a huge positive impact on the well-being of our kids and our county,” Lyons imparted. “It could improve attendance each month, decrease time out of class, as well as improve student focus, self-esteem, and health.”