- After Closing Its Doors Late Last Year, Singing Trees Recovery Center Will Reopen Next Week Under New Ownership
- New Owner of Singing Trees Recovery Center Arrested for DUI and Child Endangerment, and in Odd Interview She Denies That the State Revoked Her Therapy License. (It Did.)
- Singing Trees Recovery Center Staff Apologizes for Owners’ ‘Unhealthy Choice’ Following Recent DUI and Child Endangerment Arrest
When Amber Bedell was arrested on the Fourth of July on charges of driving under the influence and child endangerment — her third DUI arrest and second for child endangerment since 2016 — her employees at the recently reopened Singing Trees Recovery Center sought to do some damage control, issuing an apology to the community while saying they “remain steadfast and committed to all past, present, and future residents” of the drug and alcohol residential detox facility, located south of Garberville.
But in the weeks since then, nearly all of those employees have quit, and at least two of them have reported Bedell to the Children and Family Services Division of the California Department of Social Services. They allege, among other things, that Bedell has misappropriated government funds acquired through a nonprofit she founded last year, called Pure Solution Family Services, Inc.
Christopher Jorgensen, who worked as a wraparound facilitator and therapist at Pure Solution, says he resigned from the nonprofit on June 28 because Bedell was “operating illegally, unethically and performing fraudulent activity.”
Specifically, he alleges that after acquiring the Singing Trees facilities via a lease-to-own agreement, Bedell used wraparound monies allocated for at-risk youth to pay for renovations and other unqualified expenses.
“Wraparound money was used to remodel, hire staff, licensing/credentialing, and a hefty $10,000 monthly payment,” Jorgensen said in an email to the Outpost. He says he reported Bedell to the state on July 13, and he forwarded some follow-up email communication he’s had with staff at the California Department of Social Services.
The Outpost acquired a partially redacted copy of another complaint submitted to the state on July 12 by a former substance
abuse use disorder (SUD) counselor who was employed by Pure Solution while working at Singing Trees. In communications with the Outpost, this former employee asked to remain anonymous to protect her business and the people she serves.
Her complaint, like Jorgensen’s, accuses Bedell of funneling government money intended to help at-risk children into the renovation and reopening of Singing Trees.
“I have witnessed firsthand and heard secondhand from 2 other employees that have recently quit due to the unethical practices of the founder/director [Bedell], that Pure Solutions Family Services is accepting funds from Butte, Mendocino and Siskiyou Counties for WRAP services but those families are not being served,” the complaint says.
Theresa Mier, a spokesperson for the California Department of Social Services, said the department “is looking into the issue” and cannot comment further at this time.
Bedell, whose marriage and family therapist license was revoked by the state in 2018, denies the allegations, though she was very reluctant to speak on the record.
“I think the comment that I have at this time is that while we are navigating some challenging times, we appreciate the respect of privacy from the community,” she said in a phone conversation on Tuesday. “When we’re able to share more information, we will,” she added.
When asked why so many of her employees have quit recently, Bedell replied, “Disagreements about the operations of Singing Trees.”
What aspect of operations were these disagreements about?
“That’s really all I can say,” Bedell replied.
We tried to ask her about Pure Solution’s board of directors — Jorgensen said she once told him her board consisted of personal friends who don’t ask questions about the finances — but she cut us off.
“I’m gonna end this conversation,” she said. “I don’t think that my lawyers — I can’t have this conversation with you. As I said in the beginning, my statement is: We are dealing with some challenging times, and we appreciate the respect of privacy while we navigate these.”
After a beat she added, “Singing Trees is open and accepting new residents. Please give us a call.”
Meanwhile, more former employees of Singing Trees have been speaking out. Last week, for example, a former Singing Trees counselor named Marilyn Walpole posted a public statement on Facebook, saying she felt compelled to speak up in the best interests of future residents and staff.
“Neither the ‘owner’ nor the director of operations have any addiction studies qualifications or schooling,” Walpole’s statement says. “[T]his put my credentials at risk. Currently there are no staff members at the facility. I am sharing my experience in hopes that people will not put themselves or their loved ones at risk in that environment. It breaks my heart because Singing Trees is so loved & needed by the community.”
We also spoke with Courtney Bell, who was the program manager at Singing Trees before her recent resignation. She agreed that the facility is sorely needed here in Humboldt County. Before its temporary closure late last year, Singing Trees had been offering its detox and rehabilitation services in Southern Humboldt for more than three decades.
“I was born and raised down here, and it has affected so many people’s lives,” Bell said in a recent phone interview. While most rehab facilities have a “hospital-like” feel that can be intimidating, Singing Trees was always different, Bell said. “That’s a special thing about it. It’s more like a summer camp vibe, almost. It doesn’t feel depressing and scary as a lot of rehabs do.”
Bell said she and her husband did much of the work to get Singing Trees back up and running, but when she learned that allegedly misappropriated government money was being used to finance the facility and its services, she quit.
“All the money that’s supposed to be going to those kids and their WRAP program are being filtered into Singing Trees at this point,” Bell said. “That’s the most annoying part. … She makes a lot of money off of those kids and gives them very little services.”
Bell, Jorgensen and others said the California Department of Social Services typically supplies $15,000 per child per month in Adoption Assistance Program (AAP) funds.
Like Bell, Jorgensen said he’s concerned about any current and future clients at Singing Trees.
“To this date, the agency offers no mandatory training to any of its employees, with most staff still not having [an] understanding [of] what the fundamentals of wraparound are, nor what role they even play as a wraparound provider,” Jorgensen said in an email.
Bell agreed. “Rehab is [a matter of] life and death for people, and I don’t feel [Bedell] takes that seriously enough … ,” she said. “She shouldn’t be the one counseling or doing anything [related]. It’s not in her lane at all.”