Commitment to the efforts of the Harvey County Drug Task Force continues to grow — even more rapidly then Sheriff Chad Gay admitted he initially expected..

Since coming on as sheriff, Gay has re-committed sheriff's deputies to help with the mission of the drug task force. That started with one deputy, while another has been budgeted for hire to join that group as well. As of this week, the task force will now have an even broader reach as the sheriffs of Butler, Marion, McPherson and Reno counties signed an agreement allowing collaboration between the task force and their agencies.

Gay said that idea was spearheaded by task force member and Newton Police Department Det. Mitch Nedrow, who put the gears in motion a couple of months ago to loop those nearby counties into the task force's efforts — as more and more cases began to cross county lines. Nedrow worked up an agreement and Gay then reached out to the county sheriffs to set up a meeting and make that partnership official.

"We thought maybe we should get something together with the other sheriffs and just talk about how we could make this more legitimate, more sustaining," Gay said. "We're seeing people from other communities, surrounding communities and surrounding counties, coming in and out of our county and doing business here. That's why it was important for us to expand."

Officially, the agreement was signed by the sheriffs from Butler, Marion, McPherson and Reno counties and went into effect Aug. 24. With that in place, members of the drug task force will have limited jurisdiction in those surrounding counties — though the intent is to communicate and work closely with the county agency and its deputies once a task force investigation takes it outside of Harvey County lines (or vice versa).

Quarterly meetings were also part of the discussion of joint work on the task force among the counties, offering drug investigators from each agency the opportunity to go over the cases that are being worked (and potential overlap) in their communities.

"All the drug guys would get together from the counties and talk about things that are going on and things that they can help each other with — kind of a subcommittee there," Gay said. "Certainly, the ability to bring in additional resources is the biggest deal for me in this thing because we're all having the same struggles in our communities with the drug problems."

Resources that can be shared may include the physical (i.e. computers), but just having a network of more deputies — and a network of intel to share — to help work these cases is something both Gay and McPherson County Sheriff Jerry Montagne see as a big benefit.

"We can help each other out. Their detectives can help us; we can in turn help them," Montagne said. "It's just a big save all around."

Harvey County has seen its fair share of drug violence in the past two years, which is why the push to expand and bring other agencies into the fold came from its task force, but Gay pointed out this is not an isolated situation. The problem is nationwide and won't stop just because it reaches a boundary like a county line.

Because that drug crime will often freely cross borders, collaboration just makes sense in the eyes of Gay and Montagne. With the additional manpower, both are optimistic about what the expansion of the task force could do for all the counties involved.

"I can see a lot of good things coming from it, a lot of mutual assistance from all the agencies," Montagne said.

"My goal with it is if you're really heavy into the drug business, you're not safe because you go out of Harvey County. McPherson County's gonna be there, and Marion County, Reno County, Butler County," Gay said. "All these counties, it's a common goal amongst all of us to help each other and to help our community with our drug problems."