By Helen A.

He was a small-town doctor who exposed an unseen crisis that is a growing threat to us all.” – from Canary in the Coal Mine book liner notes. 

Scott County, Indiana faced a deadly pair of health crises in 2015. In addition to an opioid epidemic that was running rampant in the community, there was an outbreak of HIV that was a direct result of the opioid use there. That HIV outbreak was the worst ever recorded in rural America, and it happened in southeast Indiana in 2015.  

Dr. Will Cooke had come back to his hometown of Austin, in Scott County, Indiana to practice medicine after receiving his medical degree from Indiana University. Far from the quiet practice he assumed he would have, he was soon caught up in these two health crises. He saw firsthand how some of his own patients struggled with opioid addiction as well as HIV disease. Dr. Cooke saw substance addiction contribute to the breakdown of individual patients’ lives, their families’ lives, and the small-town community life of Austin. Yet while dealing with these stark realities and the despair that often came with it, he emerged hopeful enough in the future to share his experiences by writing a book based on the events he witnessed.  

His book, Canary in the Coal Mine, co-written with Laura Ungar in 2019, tells the story of his encounters with the twin epidemics. Dr. Cooke will speak about his experiences at EVPL on Saturday, October 14, 2023, at EVPL Central from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Join us for this free, open-to-the-public event in the Browning Rooms. There will also be information tables set up before and after the talk sharing related materials. 

Prior to the author’s talk on October 14, EVPL will host two discussion groups about the book. The first will be held on Wednesday, October 4, at EVPL Oaklyn from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm. The second will be held on Wednesday, October 11, at EVPL Central from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Free copies of the book will be available on a first come, first served basis at the checkout desks of both EVPL Oaklyn and EVPL Central starting September 15. Copies of the book are also available for checkout through EVPL’s physical and digital collection.  

We look forward to hosting Dr. Cooke on October 14, as well as discussing his book before his visit. We hope you will join us for one of the book discussions, and again to welcome Dr. Cooke as he addresses an issue that is at the forefront of both rural and city life today.  

Book Discussions

Wednesday, October 4 • 6:00 – 7:00 pm
EVPL Oaklyn

Wednesday, October 11 • 6:00 – 7:00 pm
EVPL Central

Author Visit

Saturday, October 14 • 2:00 – 3:00 pm
EVPL Central




Helen A.
Community Health Librarian

Helen A.

Give her a crossword puzzle to work, and Helen is one happy camper. She also enjoys making recipes healthier, developing her green thumb, and tracking her daily steps on walks with her husband.

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