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Crossville physician assistant Johnny “J.J.” Presley formally announced today at a press conference held at Cumberland River Hospital in Celina he will run for the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated in 2020 by current Senator Lamar Alexander. Alexander announced last year he would not seek a fourth term in the senate. Presley will run as a Republican.

“One of the main reasons I am running is there are too many small towns in the state that have no representation in the Senate,” said Presley. “It is almost impossible for a small town person to be elected. I want to change that with the upcoming election.”

One of Presley’s main focuses, if elected, will be health care.

“There are many small town hospitals that are closing. It creates more problems when it is already hard to recruit a doctor for a small town without a hospital. We can re-open some of the closed hospitals and in doing so, bring more businesses and jobs to those towns,” said Presley.

“If I am elected, the first thing I will do on day one will be to get federal agencies to consider the reopening of closed hospitals on an emergency basis instead of when they get to it,” added Presley. “Presently, a serious issue of a closed hospital that could offer lifesaving treatment has the same priority as non-life threatening equipment being requested and that is not right.”

Presley recently bought Cumberland River Hospital in Celina, Tennessee and has plans to re-opened the facility.

The issue that Presley wishes to address as a senator is a huge one. The loss of more than a dozen rural hospitals in Tennessee in less than a decade ranks somewhere toward the top of the list of closures by states. Only Texas outranks the Volunteer State in rural hospital closures.

The number one reason for so many closures is the state’s failure to expand Medicaid. According to the Tennessee Justice Center, every day Tennessee loses $3.8 million dollars in federal health care funding. The lack of Medicaid expansion has left more than 300,000 residents without insurance. Nationwide, nearly 700 rural hospital are at risk of closing. The problem for rural hospitals is this: A Rand study of 1,600 hospitals showed they are not getting paid for what they are doing. Hospitals send out bills for three times as much money as they receive.

Across the state, small town hospitals are closing their doors. Johnny Presley has a plan to change the trend and provide time critical lifesaving services again to those that do not have a hospital in close range to go to.

“This is one of several issues I want to improve as your new senator,” said Presley.

Presley introduced two individuals that spoke at the press conference today. The first was Dr. Rick Clark.

Dr. Clark spoke of a situation that involved John Ramirez’ mother in neighboring Fentress County. She was experiencing respiratory problems and chest pains. Ramirez tried to take her to Jamestown but the hospital there was closed. He transported her to a clinic there. The clinic was not able to treat his mother properly and an air flight was arraigned to transport her to a regional hospital.

Then Mr. Ramirez himself addressed the crowd.

“I am thankful my mother lived 10 more days after that horrible day before she passed away. We need our hospital back open and I am thankful for Johnny Presley and his efforts to reopen the facility.” Fighting back tears, Ramirez thanked the medical staff, including Dr. Clark and Presley, for their efforts to stabilize his mother.

The closures of rural hospitals not only has hit the old but the young as well.

105.7 News spoke with Tessa Taylor, a Clay County resident just before the press conference started. Her daughter, 7-year-old Sophie Taylor, recently had a heart transplant. “Right now if anything happens, the nearest hospital is Cookeville then Nashville where Tessa can receive the treatment she needs. If the hospital here was open, they could treat Tessa until she could be transported to a bigger facility. I am thankful for Mr. Presley for him watching over Tessa and getting out hospital re-opened.”

Presley added he is a strong supporter of the military and veterans. “The medical services for veterans in this state is far less than what it should be,” Presley said. “If elected I will be a voice for the veterans and soldiers who need medical care faster than what they are receiving it.”

The press conference ended with those in attendance having a chance to speak to Presley about several topics of interest.

The deadline to pick up papers to run for the senate seat is February 3, 2020. The papers must be returned and certified by noon on April 2, 2020. The primaries will be held August 6, 2020.

The 52-year-old Presley is a native of Crossville, Tennessee. He graduated from Cumberland County High School in 1985. Presley went on to graduate from Roane State Community College and Tennessee Tech. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Science from Trevecca Nazarene University and completed his physician assistant post graduate program.

Presley has served as an emergency medical technician since 1985. He was also a member of the Cumberland County Board of Education from 1998 to 2002.

Presley was named the 2017 Top Physician/Physician Assistant of Crossville, the Physician Assistant of the Year by the Tennessee Academy of Physicians Assistants in 2004. He also served on the Tennessee Committee of Physician Assistants for 8 years serving four of them as chairman of the committee. Presley was also named a lifetime HERO Physician Assistant in the United States. Only three individuals have been bestowed that honor.

Presley worked at several rural hospitals in his career including in Jellico, Jamestown, Celina and Crossville. He had a full time internal medical practice with Dr. John Sherrill at Crossville Medical Group.

Presley currently owns several companies including Cumberland River Hospital in Celina, Tollett Stone Inc., JWP Commercial Properties and the J.J. Presley Company. He is also one of the owners of Acute Care Clinics of Crossville/Clarkrange/Jamestown and Rocky Ridge Stone Company.

Presley is married to his wife, Kimberly Presley. She is a native of Fentress County and a graduate Clarkrange High School. They have two children, Amanda Kerley and Jonathan Presley. They have one 5-year-old grandson.

Johnny Presley (left) and John Ramirez (right)

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