MILFORD — As the opioid epidemic soars, school districts in Connecticut and around the nation are increasingly carrying the antidote naloxone, under the brand name Narcan, in high schools and some middle schools, but Milford is among the first in Connecticut to make it available in elementary schools, district officials said.

Milford Health Director Deepa Joseph and the schools’ medical coordinator, Dr. Andrew Carlson, made the call because they want to watch out for the safety of all.

Joseph, who verified Milford is on the forefront with the elementary school policy, said they decided to have it in all school nurses’ offices because it can be used for staff or visitors.

Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner Dr. James Gill said this summer that he estimates there will be 1,078 fatal drug overdoses by the end of 2017 in Connecticut, an enormous number when compared to 2012, when fatal overdoses totaled 357.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the country is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic. Since 1997, 300,000 people in the UNited States have died of opioid overdose, the CDC reports.

“Opioids killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, more than any year on record,” the agency website states.

Naloxone, the best-known antidote for opioid overdose, now is available in more settings than before because it can be administered through a nasal spray.

According to the state Department of Health website, the antidote — which has no street value — is a “short acting medication which revives a person within a minute or two and allows a window of opportunity to access medical help.”

John Frassinelli, the state Department of Education’s bureau chief of health, nutrition, family services and adult education, said there is no central database for Connecticut schools regarding individual districts’ naloxone policies, “but it’s (the opioid epidemic) certainly on the front burner of many conversations.”

Frassinelli said part of the school nurse training done at the state level in 2016 included conversation on the opioid epidemic and his advice was for each to assess the situation in their own communities, and bring all the community providers together for the discussion.

“It’s a local decision,” he said. “It can’t hurt to have it.”

At a recent city Board of Health meeting Joseph and Carlson were praised for their forward thinking on the matter.

A board member involved in the school nurse circuit said that while the elementary school availability is catching on elsewhere in the country, it’s rare in Connecticut.

Mayor Ben Blake said Monday that all the city’s first responders now carry the opioid antidote, including police officers, because of the availability of spray. There was a time only paramedics could administer the antidote because it had to be done intravenously.

The National Association of School Nurses recommends schools incorporate the measure because nurses have the expertise to recognize emergencies and convey the happenings to emergency personnel, the organization’s website states.

Since 2015, pharmacists in Connecticut have been allowed to dispense and prescribe naloxone, as part of the state’s effort to increase availability of the medication.

Among opioid deaths in Connecticut, in June 2016, three people died in a single day of opioid-related overdoses and about two dozen more were treated at Yale New Haven Hospital and survived.

According to a story by Connecticut Health I-Team writer Lisa Chedekel published in the Register, “Connecticut was the 5th-highest among 30 states in the rate of opioid-related emergency department visits — 254.6 per 100,000 population in 2014, well above national rate of 177.7. For inpatient stays related to opioid use, the state ranked 7th-highest among 44 states, at 337.5 stays per 100,000 — above the national rate of 224.6.”