News Releases

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Darlene Hutchinson Biehl Heads President Trump’s Office for Victims of Crime

Photo August 14, 2017, Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan R. Hanson swears in recently appointed Office for Victims of Crime, Director, Darlene Hutchinson Biehl in Washington, DC. 

In November of 1987, Darlene Hutchinson Biehl's life changed forever. Biehl was a junior in college at Troy University in Troy, Alabama, studying journalism. A native of Seminole, Fla., and graduate of Keswick Christian High School, she was in college 400 miles away from home. School had just let out for Thanksgiving break and she was going to a post office to check her mailbox, when she was kidnapped at gunpoint by a stranger. She was just 20 years old. She was blindfolded and bound, and after two days was able free herself and escape. Fortunately, she survived and led police to the offender who pleaded guilty to kidnapping and rape and served 20 years in prison.

Since her attack, she has seen firsthand the needs of victims and how the criminal justice system failed at times. A passion to help other victims like herself began to develop.  This passion has lead her on the path to recently being appointed by President Donald Trump's to a key role in his administration. On August 14, 2017, Biehl was sworn in as the director for Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), within the U.S. Department of Justice.

A longtime friend of Biehl’s, Rachel Johnson Collier knew she was an excellent choice for this position. "When Darlene got appointed to this position, I knew no one deserved this more! I have known her for 32 years. We have been roommates, sorority sisters, and of course, friends for life! Darlene has worked diligently with the victims and families of victims for many years. She goes to parole hearing, meetings with officials, and any other means necessary to help as many people as she can. She has helped get laws changed when it seemed there was no hope of getting legislature to change. Most of her work and accomplishments have been on a volunteer basis. Most people would not devote their lives to a cause and not expect anything back, but she is an exception to the rule! I just want to end by saying I am so very proud of Darlene for stepping out and facing her own situation to go to such lengths for so many people. She had blessed my life by being the very best friend a person can have and for making our world a little safer with her efforts!”

Biehl’s accomplishments over the past twenty plus years is incredible. She has volunteered countless hours to helping victims and their families. Her work includes legislation and public policy, teaching at police academies and accompanying victims of all types to court and parole hearings. Her volunteerism includes 10 years with rape crisis centers in Montgomery, Alabama, and Collin County, Texas, as well as seven years as president of a victims’ support and advocacy group.  She has received many awards for her dedication to empowering survivors and protecting their rights, while enhancing public safety.  Biehl has also played a key role in the development of Alabama’s innovative victim notification system, as well as the passage and ratification of a Victims’ Constitutional Amendment in Alabama. 

Those who have worked with Biehl over the years including Alabama’s Attorney General Steve Marshall know she will be an asset to the country. He recently released this statement in a press release, "Darlene Hutchinson Biehl is well known as a tireless advocate for crime victims' rights in Alabama and nationwide. She has an extensive background in fighting for those victimized by violent crime, ensuring they are given a voice in the criminal justice system. Over my 16 years as prosecutor, I have worked closely with Darlene to protect the rights of crime victims and I know President Trump made the right choice in appointing her to lead the US DOJ Crime Victims Office.”
  
Biehl has roots in Pinellas County. She grew up in St. Petersburg and is a 1985 graduate of Keswick Christian High School. "We were extremely proud to hear that one of our alumni was selected to this critical position in our country. Darlene is a woman of character and integrity, has a heart and compassion for people, and consistently exemplifies the love of Christ. She will be an excellent leader in a very sensitive area and we look forward to seeing how families will be helped in a great time of need by her guidance and support. We pray the Lord’s blessing over her life and position,” said Nick Stratis, Superintendent Keswick Christian School.

According to the OVC website, Biehl will oversee assisting crime victims and helping provide leadership in changing attitudes, policies, and practices to promote justice and healing for all victims of crime. OVC was established in 1988 through an amendment to the Victims of Crime Act of 1984. Besides being a crime victims' advocate Biehl has more than 25 years in publishing, including eight years as the editor of law enforcement publications in Alabama, Washington, D.C., and Texas. Plus, she served nearly 6 years as the Communications and Media Director for the Dallas Bar Association. 

"It's been a whirlwind, but I'm loving it and so very honored to have this opportunity to serve victims of crime on a national level," said Biehl.


Biehl resides in Alabama with her husband Mark, but is splitting her time now in Washington, DC.

Mother, daughter fight back with an app against PMDD

  

For years, 22-year-old St Petersbrug, FL resident Brett Buchert has suffered with anxiety and depression. It started when she was in sixth grade, about the same time she started her menstrual cycle. Over time, the symptoms got worse and while in college, it got so bad she took a semester off and stayed home with her parents. "Some days I’d laugh nonstop with friends, then a few days later I’d cry inconsolably with my mom on the phone, " said Brett.

Brett and her mom Sheila Buchert
founded MevPMDD
It was during this time off from college, Brett’s mom Sheila Buchert found a local doctor who gave Brett hope again. "That fall my mom got me an appointment with a functional medicine doctor. I was wary. Within the past two years doctors had prescribed me four different types of antidepressants, and an anti-anxiety medication, all of which didn’t help me feel better and just furthered my hopelessness. However, this doctor was different. He listened to my history carefully and did not jump in with a new way to medicate me. Instead, he said 'I think it could be premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).'”

Before they could know for sure, Brett had to track her symptoms for two months, two menstrual cycles. "We brought the excel spreadsheets and graphs back to my doctor. He said then with confidence, words that changed my life: 'Yes, you have PMDD.'”

Just what is PMDD? It affects as many as 10 million women in the U.S. and Europe alone. The symptoms of PMDD are severe and can interfere with a woman's quality of life, relationships, work, school and can even lead to suicide. According to statistics from Gia Allemand Foundation, which is the leading US organization advocating for the prevention, treatment, and research of this condition about 15% of women with PMDD will attempt suicide in her lifetime. The symptoms arise during the premenstrual phase of a woman’s cycle (sometimes 1–2 weeks before her period) and subside each month around the time her period comes. PMDD’s cyclical nature differentiates it from other mood disorders, but can also make it very hard to diagnose. About 80% of women with PMDD are not diagnosed at all, or are diagnosed with other conditions like depression and bipolar disorder. 

Brett had seen several doctors in the past and been diagnosed with major depression and generalized anxiety disorder and given medications, but nothing really worked. Being diagnosed with PMDD and receiving the right treatment has been helping. “Yes, another diagnosis to add to my list, but to me it was much more. It was the right diagnosis and the start I needed to change the way I looked at my life. Knowing that I do have a condition I will have to struggle with instills hope. I am able to be more confident,” said Brett.

There is no blood or saliva test to diagnose PMDD. The only way to diagnose it is by tracking the symptoms for at least two menstrual cycles.

After going through this manual and tedious tracking and learning more about PMDD, Brett and her mother Sheila decided they could help others, so earlier this year they developed Me v PMDD. It’s a new app and associated website to help women track symptoms, treatments and gain support.

The power of the information was clear. It not only led to Brett’s PMDD diagnosis, but also empowered her to focus on what she can control in her life. "It makes me feel good to share my experience to help other people and some people have said they are so thankful they found our website. Women helping each other. It's another step in my journey,” said Brett.
  
Me v PMDD will make symptom and treatment tracking for PMDD accessible and simple, by featuring easy-to-read symptom graphs to help women and their doctors understand and more effectively treat PMDD. The app will help replace the antiquated printable symptom tracking charts currently made available online. It will also include a Self-Love Journal for personal affirmations and reminders of coping mechanisms, as well as resources to learn more about PMDD, links to peer support, suicide/crisis hotlines, and doctors in your area who treat PMDD.

“We hope it can contribute to the changing tides surrounding women’s menstrual health and lead to better support, resources, and more effective treatment for women with PMDD," said Sheila.

“Me v PMDD puts the power of tracking into a woman’s hand,” according to Tory Eisenlohr-Moul, Ph.D., Center for Women's Mood Disorders, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The app will help empower women to take control over their emotional, mental and physical symptoms by gaining a clear picture of their symptom patterns, receiving peer support, and learning about evidence-based treatment options.”

Since being diagnosed with PMDD, Brett says she is working with her doctor as a trial case to find an effective treatment for PMDD. “I’m so happy to say that we are onto something and my symptoms have decreased by about 70%. My PMDD went from nearly unbearable to more of just a nuisance. I owe so much of that to finally figuring out what was wrong, to finally getting a correct diagnosis," said Brett. 

Me v PMDD is being developed in coordination with the Gia Allemand Foundation for PMDD. The Buchert's have been invited to present their app at the national 2017 PMDD Annual Conference in Deerfield Beach, FL. Anyone interested on the issue is invited to attend. Go to https://giaallemandfoundation.org/conference/ for more information. The Me v PMDD app, will be available for free worldwide for iOS, Android and website users in October 2017. You can sign up early for access at www.mevpmdd.com.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Honoring those serving our great country


Fort Myers Mayor Jim Humphrey presents Sgt. Steve Tubbs
with a proclamation and keys to the city (2003)
I have been working with my daughter Graci for the past two years on her nonprofit Operation: Military Matters where she sends care packages to the military overseas. It is amazing to see how the community supports our men and women fighting for us every day.

The community rallying behind our troops, brings back memories of when my brother-in-law Steve Tubbs served two tours in Iraq starting in 2003. As I was thinking about it, I remembered how the community was supportive of our military and how Steve was treated when he came home. My wish is all the men and women serving in our military experience some type of welcome home like my brother-in-law experienced.

Cody Anderson walked 45 miles in honor of the troops in 2003
What a joy and blessing it was for my 23 year-old brother-in-law at the time to know there were people who truly appreciated what he did and the sacrifice he made for them. We lived in Fort Myers at the time and the community truly rallied behind Steve. One man, Cody Anderson, even walked 45 miles carrying a US flag for Steve and the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time.

A celebration with family and friends.
Even the local television stations
came out for the event.
When Steve did come home from serving one of the tours, we had a huge celebration for him. Not only was there family there, the media was there and the Mayor of Fort Myers Jim Humphrey presented a proclamation to my brother-in-law declaring it Steve Tubbs Day.  Steve was also given the key to the city. To this day, my brother-in-law celebrates Steve Tubbs day and it is a reminder of appreciation for what he did for our country.

Steve Tubbs talking to students
at Fort Myers schools.
When Steve came home, some of my friends who were teachers wanted to have Steve come talk to their schools. Steve had no problem putting on his uniform to talk to kids about what he did and Operation Iraqi Freedom. I also fortunate to go with Steve to several schools where he spoke to rooms full of students. The kids asked great questions and he was able to give them a perspective they couldn't get anywhere else and they heard it from a soldier. 



Steve Tubbs signing autographs for the
students.
Students wanted photographs and
autographs of a real soldier.
What was really neat was the kids treated Steve like he was a "rock star." I remember the kids all crowding around him asking him for his autograph and photo. It was truly a day I will never forget. I was so happy for him because he felt appreciated by those back home and they were thankful.


Steve Tubbs with a school official
and Cody Anderson who walked
45 miles in honor of the troops.
Steve Tubbs talking to students
at a Fort Myers school.
He was in his Army fatigues and when we stopped for lunch after going to the schools someone even
bought his lunch to thank him for his service. It couldn't have been a better day of gratitude. Something I think all our service men and women deserve, but I know never expect. They do what they do because they love our country!

These men and women are giving their lives for us and those who have families are giving time away from their families for the betterment of our America. Next time you see a service member out in public remember to thank them for their service. If you can do something more, do it! Let them know they are appreciated!