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Ken Zimmerman

Ken Zimmerman is the founder and co-director of S2i.   A noted policy maker, civil rights leader, and philanthropist, he has increasingly focused on how to transform the nation’s broken mental health system following the mental illness and death of his son Jared in 2016.  In doing so, he builds on his lengthy experience building (and dismantling barriers to) equitable and effective policy and program related to criminal justice reform, housing and homelessness, and other social policy areas critical to creating a society in which every individual’s dignity is acknowledged and supported.   

From 2012-2018, Ken served as the Director of U.S. Programs for the Open Society Foundations, where he directed over $100 million in grants to organizations focused on equality, fairness, and justice. Previously, he served as a member of the Obama Administration’s HUD transition team as Senior Advisor to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. In addition, he was a litigation partner for the pro bono practice group at Lowenstein Sandler, Chief Counsel to New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, and founding Executive Director of the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice.  A graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School, Ken also serves as a Distinguished Fellow at the NYU Furman Center and teaches at NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

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The World Health Organization defines “mental health” “as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” In using this definition, S2i recognizes that some mental health challenges reflect brain diseases that, like physical diseases, require appropriate stigma-free and patient-centered care and include both mental health and substance use disorders. Other mental health challenges stem from social conditions and marginalization and require different forms of interventions.