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ASK Wellness Street Worker retires after a career of helping people fight drug addiction

Ken Salter is retiring after 17 years of working with street people and addictions. With the fentanyl crisis, he just can't do it anymore, he says.
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September 01, 2017 - 9:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - After 17 years working for ASK Wellness in Kamloops one of the people who has been on the front lines of the battle against addiction is calling it a career.

Ken Salter says it has been quite the ride being a Streets Worker and dedicating his life to helping people battle their demons and beat their addictions. He says the years of being surrounded by people at the worst time of their lives takes its toll on a person's mental well-being.

"We see the worst of the worst right up to people dying," he says. "I've sat with my clients as they've died and on a number of occasions I've found my clients deceased. You kind of have to numb yourself to that kind of stuff and the danger is, and it did happen to me eventually after 17 years, you numb yourself to everything including your home life."

Salter has been off work for three months now and says he can start to feel himself return to normal mentally.

"I'm feeling myself coming back and I feel a lot better," he says. "And you don't realize it's happening to you until it's happening."

Despite the personal struggle he has had to go through in his career he says the important thing to remember is the success stories, even if those don't get as much attention as the tragedies.

"In this business we don't very often see the good things that happen from what we do but sometimes we hear about them later," he says. "That's something that you need to hold on to. For instance I had a lady stop me on the street once and asked me if I remembered her and I said no. She told me I saved her life."

Salter is leaving ASK Wellness at a time when they are seeing unprecedented levels of dangerous drug use. He says over the first ten years of his career he really felt like they were winning the battle against opiate use, but then fentanyl hit the streets.

"From five years ago to where it is today, I feel like we've lost that battle and I can't fight it anymore," he says. "The frustrating thing to me is there's a way we can take death out of the equation but our government is probably not liberal enough to take that step."

He wants to see the government stop taking half measures on harm reduction.

"These people crave drugs and they're going to use them," he says. "So why not give them pharmaceutical grade drugs? Heroine, morphine, cocaine, crystal methamphetamine. Give them the stuff that's made in a laboratory under the correct conditions. It takes the idea of death right of the equation and now we can start looking at their addiction and maybe how we can help them get out of that."

While Salter is retiring from ASK Wellness he is not leaving the workforce and plans to purchase a mobile home park up north where he will spend his days cutting grass and ploughing snow.


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