HARRISBURG, Pa. — Dr. Tony Reigle says first responders face all sorts of hardships.
"It's recognizing that doesn't make us less or weaker of a first responder. The things we deal with on a daily basis are not just things that we're typically built to deal with on a daily basis. We have to take the stigma away from our first responders talking about the experiences they go through," he said.
Dr. Reigle would know, as the current chief officer of Harrisburg River Rescue and as someone who experienced his own horror during an emergency training exercise, when he nearly drowned.
"That was pretty traumatic for me. I didn't take care of myself after it, being in that realm, you think you have to just get back out there and continue. Being able to work through that I just wanted to be a voice for other first responders to realize it's okay," said Dr. Reigle.
The incident led the combat veteran, who served the country for 12 years in the United States Airforce, to get a master's degree in counseling, followed by his doctorate in psychology.
"It stemmed from wanting to get a better understanding of myself and then once I achieved that, I wanted to share that with as many people as possible," he told FOX43 News.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Reigle volunteered as a behavioral health specialist. He provided for frontline healthcare workers in nursing homes and was even deployed into hot zone facilities to assist.
He has been a volunteer on local county Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) teams, and currently is the clinical director of Dauphin County's volunteer CISM team.
"It's okay to have a period of time that you're working through it. With the right kind of support and treatment, we can get back out there and continue to do the things that we signed up to do in the first place when we became first responders," Dr. Reigle said.
Now, in his 25th year as a first responder, Reigle has opened a brand new trauma clinic in Harrisburg, Reigle Therapeutics Group.
"My whole premise on developing this clinic was to have a safe space dedicated to first responders, veterans, [and] healthcare workers, but also that finances really shouldn't be a barrier to why anyone gets support through any kind of mental health issue," he told FOX43.
Dr. Reigle says all of their clinicians operate on a sliding scale, happy to meet each client where they are financially, to ensure everyone has access to care.
"I do it to help individuals, I do it because I know that it's helped me," Dr. Reigle said.
That passion and dedication for a healthier community got him nominated for a Jefferson award.
"Having this space to be a voice, was nothing I ever imagined, and I don't know how long we'll have it, but while we do, I want to make sure we're using it for good for our community and our first responders," he said proudly.
For more information on Reigle Therapeutics Group, click here.
For more information on the Jefferson Awards, click here.