The bill aimed to build 1,500 mental health centers to treat people while they worked and lived at home, rather than being housed for years in often-abusive state institutions.
Recent events including deadly mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard have focused public attention on how the nation is treating mental illness.
It's clear Kennedy's vision was never fully realized. While the legislation helped usher in positive changes, it was never fully funded so many of the sickest people had nowhere to turn.
Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy is gathering advocates this week for the Kennedy Forum to develop an agenda for improving mental health care.