Coordinating Center's Lichtenstein retiring after 45 years of service to community

Karen-Ann Lichtenstein is retiring after 45 years of service to individuals with disabilities and complex medical needs.
Karen-Ann Lichtenstein is retiring after 45 years of service to individuals with disabilities and complex medical needs. (Melissa Driscoll Krol / Capital Gazette)

Karen-Ann Lichtenstein is retiring after 45 years of service to individuals with disabilities and complex medical needs throughout Maryland.

She has spent the last 35 years, including 26 years as CEO, at The Coordinating Center, which has its headquarters in Millersville.


The Coordinating Center is an organization that supports individuals with disabilities and complex medical needs by locating and coordinating needed services for them.

After graduating Antioch College with a master’s degree in clinical psychology in the early 1970s, Lichtenstein hit the ground running as a young social worker.


“I was young and enthusiastic,” Lichtenstein said. “I was committed to moving folks with disabilities into the community.”

In 1975, Lichtenstein became the first executive director of a new residential services organization that eventually became known as Alternative Living Inc. (ALI).

“We were moving individuals out of institutions [at ALI] into group homes and independent living, including renting homes for individuals to live more independently,” Lichtenstein said.

She worked at ALI from 1975 to 1984 until moving to The Coordinating Center.

“We began with a $300,000 grant and focused on moving kids out of hospitals into homes,” Lichtenstein said. “Little ones with the most complex medical needs were living in hospitals. We put [services] together in order to get them home.

“While we began with pediatrics initially, as we began to expand we included young adults. Now we serve individuals with multiple disabilities and complex medical needs from birth until the end of life.”

The Coordinating Center works with mainly with low-income individuals who are “high users” of health care services and those with disabilities. The nonprofit organization locates and coordinates services and care for children, adults and their families while navigating the complex systems of medical care.

“We help move people from institutions, nursing facilities and hospitals to homes in the community of their choice and prevent individuals who are living independently from entering institutions,” said Renee Dain, vice president of business development and social innovation of the Coordinating Center.

Lichtenstein said the most difficult part of her career has been balancing the mission of the organization with the requirements of different programs and the rules one has to follow. However, Lichtenstein said she thrives on a challenge and has always focused on “how to do it right.”

In 1985, The Coordinating Center had 12 employees. Today the organization employs 300 and is continuing to grow.

“We have a collaborative governance,” Lichtenstein said. “I really believe I want the smartest people around me. That’s how you get results. We have the smartest people here.

“I have done nothing on my own. It takes a village and we have moved the organization forward.”


While The Coordinating Center serves more than10,000 people throughout Maryland, it has remained committed to individuals in Anne Arundel County, where the organization began and remains headquartered.

“Over the past 10 years we have supported nearly 5,800 individuals with complex needs living in Anne Arundel County, nearly 600 of them in Crofton and West County,” Dain said.

As CEO of The Coordinating Center, Lichtenstein has remained a passionate advocate for needy individuals, including serving as chair of the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities.

“I’ve been in this field for my entire career. A total of 45 years,” Lichtenstein said. “Over the years I’ve learned about many issues in the field. The language has changed as well as what defines ‘inclusion’ and incorporating a holistic approach to medical and social needs.

“The disabled community drove the change of language. They may choose to define themselves by their disability or not.”

A successor for Lichtenstein has not been selected.

“We’re looking for someone passionate about our mission,” Dain said.

Lichtenstein said she hopes the new CEO will “maintain our person-centered philosophy and inclusive culture as we move into our 36th year of changing the lives of children and adults with disabilities and complex needs. [The Coordinating Center] needs a visionary leader capable of taking us to the next level.”

“I’m leaving on a high note fortunately. I think it’s time for me to leave and time for an evolution of the organization. While I still have the energy and could keep going, I know [leaving] is the right decision.

“I will never put my feet up [after retiring]. I’m not very good at sitting still.”

If you are in need of services, contact The Coordinating Center at 410-987-1048 and ask for intake or visit www.coordinatingcenter.org.

Open mic night

On Friday, Walden Country Club will host its monthly “Crofton City Limits” coffee house and open mic night from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. There is no cost to attend or perform. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Walden Country Club is at 1500 Reidel Road in Crofton.

Heritage society open house

On Sunday, the Odenton Heritage Society’s Museum will hold an open house from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. This month’s displays will feature 1940s general stores, including photographs of Jerman’s store in Gambrills and Whittle’s store in Odenton. The OHS is located at 1367 Odenton Road in Odenton. Admission and parking are free. For more information, contact Wylie Donaldson at 410-674-2677.

Bible study course

From Sept. 17 to Nov. 12, Odenton resident professor Michael Gorman of St. Mary’s Seminary will offer a free, bible study course titled “Understanding the New Testament.” It will be held on Mondays from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Crofton, 1690 Crofton Parkway. All denominations are welcome. For information, or to register, email: https://nt2018gorman.eventbrite.com or mgorman@stmarys.edu.

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